August 2 – 8, 2019Vol. 21, No. 9

For the Birds

Amy Soper, John Brower, Pete Kallin, and Liz Tonge admire a downy rattlesnake plantain orchid. Photo by F. Knight.

by Pete Kallin

The third Saturday in July was the annual loon count in Maine, coordinated by Maine Audubon. Every year over 1000 volunteers, of which I am one, attempt to count all the loons on a couple hundred Maine lakes at the same time. It's organized like a military operation, and I am the coordinator for the dozen or so volunteers on Long Pond.

Early in the morning all counters head for their assigned section of the lake to be in position to count all the adult loons and loon chicks in their area between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. I left my dock around 6 a.m., passing a loon with a chick silhouetted in the morning sun at the mouth of my cove. As recently as two days ago, we had two chicks in our cove but one disappeared, probably taken by the bald eagle that has been soaring over our cove lately.

After picking up my assistant counter, Fred Knight, at the Village Inn docks, we searched our assigned sector, counting two adult nesting loons, and I dropped Fred off and headed back toward my dock. As I approached Tracy Cove, I saw a loon fly overhead and land in the cove and spotted Dick Greenan, with Jason and Sarah Toner in his boat, the assigned counters for that sector, headed towards Dick's dock. Suddenly a "Battle Royale" erupted and one of our resident loons began chasing the rogue loon invading their territory and threatening their chick. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, the two loons did a high-speed butterfly stroke that covered well over a mile of continuous splashing and squawking before the invader slinked off, defeated. I was truly amazed at the amount of energy expended by the two birds.

Downy rattlesnake plantain orchid

Later that morning, I picked up Fred at his dock and we headed down to the 7-Lakes Alliance (7-LA) Fogg Island property on the Mount Vernon side of lower Long Pond for the official opening of the new trail and boardwalk. Fred and I were planning to land at the "water" end of the trail just south of Ingham Stream to assist anyone coming by canoe or kayak, while 7-LA Stewardship Director, Amy Soper, was leading a group of hikers from the parking lot off Spring Hill Road.

A sandhill crane defends his territory.

When we came ashore at the small beach between two overhanging cedar trees, there was a sudden eruption raucous squawking that sounded like a Canada goose trying to swallow a bunch of bullfrogs. It turned out that a pair of sandhill cranes with a youngster had taken up residence right next to our landing area and didn't approve of our presence. After a few minutes of squawking and flying at us to get us to move, the cranes finally flew about 100 yards up the shoreline toward Ingham Stream.

Fred and I then hiked south along the trail, eventually meeting up with Amy hiking south with Liz Tong and John Brower. We all hiked back to the island, stopping to admire a few stands of downy rattlesnake plantain orchids along the trail. Back at the island, we had atrial lunch, picked a few highbush blueberries and then headed out, Fred and I in the boat and the rest overland. For info on how to access this new bike/hike/ski trail, contact Amy Soper at the MLRC.

This area offers some great outdoor recreation, whether you like to hike, bike, birdwatch, fish, sail, or paddle a canoe or kayak. Pick up a map of the local trails at Day's Store or from the 7 Lakes Alliance at the Maine Lakes Resource Center. Please check the 7-LA Facebook page for details on some interesting events scheduled this summer. Also, check the website and keep an eye on the sign out front. And make sure you take a kid along on your next outdoor adventure.

Pete Kallin is a past director of the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance, which merged with the Maine Lakes Resource Center in December 2017 to form the 7-Lakes Alliance.