MTRI is a non-profit co-operative with a mandate to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station.
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The Common loon is a highly visible water bird inhabiting many of the lakes within the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve. It is an icon of wilderness and people are captivated by its beauty and haunting call. Concerns have been raised about the health of loons after research conducted by the Canadian Wildlife Service found that our Nova Scotia loons have the highest blood mercury concentrations of any loon population in North America. These levels have been associated with impaired reproduction and altered breeding behavior in some areas. Besides the bio-accumulation of mercury, loons are sensitive to lake water acidification, water level fluctuations and human disturbance. LoonWatch surveys began on park lakes within Kejimkujik in 1996. In 2006, the program was expanded to the greater landscape through MTRI, where volunteers are trained to observe and record loon activity and breeding success on an assigned lake throughout the summer using a national protocol developed by Bird Studies Canada. These two program components will provide a picture of how well loon populations are doing in the region.
If you have a lake and you would like to monitor for loons, consider becoming a LoonWatcher. To become a LoonWatcher, contact the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and ask for a LoonWatch package for the lake you would like to monitor. Your LoonWatch package will provide you with a data sheet to fill in for the summer months along with a map of the lake you wish to monitor.
To observe loon abundance and breeding success on lakes within Kejimkujik and in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve with a focus on the Mersey and Medway watersheds.
To determine status and trends in loon abundance, lake use and reproductive potential of resident birds.
To contribute to the monitoring of lake water quality.
LoonWatch used trained volunteers to simultaneously survey study lakes within a three hour observation period in late May and again in late August.
LoonWatch observations in May focused primarily on observing the number of adult loons (territorial pairs and individuals) residing on each lake. The August LoonWatch focused on the importance of assessing the number of surviving juvenile loons. Nests were not specifically sought after during LoonWatch in an effort to minimize disturbance.
Lakeside dwellers and cottagers with an interest in loons were recruited and provided with information about loons and the monitoring protocol. Volunteers surveyed lakes in June for loon pairs, in July for newly hatched chicks and in August for surviving young.
Volunteer and MTRI staff data were collected and compiled, then shared with Bird Studies Canada.
MTRI staff canoed to the deepest part of many of the lakes and measured water quality at one meter intervals, recording temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and pH.
LoonWatch detected only four loon chicks in 2014 that were believed to survive to full fledging. Reproductive success was not high, considering that a total of 15 active nests were detected earlier in the year by the ongoing research efforts of the Canadian Wildlife Service and MTRI. Lakes that supported juvenile loons were Big Dam, Cobrielle, Frozen Ocean and Kejimkujik.
During 2014, the largest simultaneous count of adult loons on Kejimkujik lakes reached 44 individuals, counted on August 24th.
The numbers of volunteers continued to hold steady for the Kejimkujik LoonWatch program, with some new volunteer recruitments joining forces with other seasoned, long-term dedicated LoonWatchers.
In 2014, the Mersey LoonWatch program had 20 volunteers monitoring loons on 20 lakes in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.
Seventeen loon chicks were recorded on nine lakes outside Kejimkujik. Five of these chicks were observed as large chicks that had a good chance of survival.
The surface pH of the volunteer lakes ranged from 3.89 to 6.64 in 2014.
May’s total rainfall was slight at 44.3 mm (Environment Canada’s National Climate Data and Information Archive), which may account for nest failure on several lakes due to stranding. In June, the total rainfall increased significantly which resulted in nest flooding on two lakes.
On June 2 2013, a total of 34 loons were observed on 16 lakes within Kejimkujik. During the second sampling on August 18 2013, 23 loons were observed. Only two chicks were observed, both on Loon Lake.
The status of the loon population within Kejimkujik remains unchanged from 2012 and is considered to be ‘fair but declining’.
In 2013, the Mersey LoonWatch program had approximately 21 volunteers monitoring loons on 17 lakes in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.
Eleven loon chicks were recorded by loonwatchers on lakes outside Kejimkujik. Lakes that had chicks were Charlotte, Cameron, Jerry, Harmony, Tupper and Lake Joli. Two of these chicks were observed as large chicks that had a good chance of survival.
The surface pH of volunteer lakes ranged from 4.55 – 7.3.
Rainfall amounts were very high for the observation period of May – August with 486 mm, compared to last year’s rainfall of 304 mm (Environment Canada’s National Climate Data and Information Archive). An atypically high number of nests were observed to have been flooded in 2013, which may account for the lower number of chicks observed.
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
Bird Studies Canada
Environment Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service