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Volunteers To Count Loons Saturday In Yearly Checkup

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kcarver/

On Saturday, volunteers will get up early to carry out an annual count of the state's loon population.

The citizen-science event, overseen by Maine Audubon, aims to get a snapshot of how adult loons and chicks are faring year to year.

Staff Naturalist, Doug Hitchcox says the count can offer insights into how the birds are being affected by factors such AS climate. Heavy rains and flooding can drown nests. But drought conditions can also cause hardship for the birds.

"They need to build their nests kind of right on the shoreline and they like having a really steady level of water. Essentially because they're practically immobile on land- their legs are so far back on their body that they really struggle to get around," Hitchcox says.

That means that if water levels drop too much, loons aren't able to return to their nests.

Additionally, Hitchcox says as weather gets hotter and drier, people tend to flock to lakes and ponds for fishing and boating- which can also harm loons.

Last year, the count identified about 3,000 adult loons and more than 400 chicks, and the population appears to be holding steady.