Efforts being made to welcome the Common Loon in Massachusetts


The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) is interested in receiving loon sighting reports this spring and summer.  Reports of birds with chicks are of particular interest.  For years, DFW has been monitoring loons nesting in the state.  Common Loons, listed as a Species of Special Concern in the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, returned to nest in Massachusetts in 1975 after being absent as a breeding bird in the state for almost a century.

According to the DFW, from 1975 to 1983 loon pair activity was only observed on the Quabbin Reservoir.  In 1984, loon activity was also observed on the Wachusett Reservoir.   By 1986, loon nesting activity began to spread to other water bodies in the state.  In 2012, thirty five territorial loon pairs were documented on 13 lakes and ponds in the state.  Submit loon pair sighting reports via MassWildlife’s electronic Vernal Pool and Rare Species VPRS Information System, an online data submittal and mapping application, or email: mass.wildlife@state.ma.us, or send by postal mail to “Loon Survey”, DFW, Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, 100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230, West Boylston, MA 01583.

In addition to monitoring loon activity, DFW has been partnering with other agencies and organizations to improve nesting sites for loons.   Recently, the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), based in Gorham, Maine provided funding for 18 loon rafts to be placed on reservoirs where loons have been attempting to nest.  Common Loons cannot walk well and are very awkward on land. They only come on to land in spring to breed and build their nest within a few feet of the shoreline. This is not a problem in water bodies with constant water levels, but for loons nesting on reservoir shorelines, fluctuating water levels can be a problem. If water levels rise, the nest and eggs flood and will not hatch. If water levels drop more than 6 to 12 inches the nest will be abandoned because the loon cannot reach the nest.

To reduce losses on reservoirs, loon rafts are constructed of cedar logs, foam floatation, and wire with vegetation placed on the raft to appear as if the raft is a small island.  Predator canopies are added to protect the nests from predation by other birds.  The raft is floated and anchored in the loon territory. Because the raft floats, it protects the nest and eggs from being flooded or stranded.  Some loons utilize the rafts immediately; others may take a few years to use the raft.  This month, loon rafts will be deployed at the DCR Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs and on reservoirs operated by the Fitchburg and Pittsfield water departments where loon pairs have been reported.

There is no mistaking the sound of a loon at twilight.  Late last summer, I had the thrill of having one diving close to my boat as I was bass fishing.   Seeing and hearing that bird was the highlight of my fishing last year.  *****

In his monthly report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager noted that the Division recently acquired 75 acres of land in the Town of Windsor.   The parcel consists of wooded wetlands with some hardwoods on the uplands.  It should be very good habitat for moose, deer, bear and snowshoe hare among other species, he said.  The property, which is located on Rte 8A between Rte 9 and Rte 116, abuts the Savoy Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on three sides and will improve access to existing protected lands.

When added to the existing Savoy WMA, the total protected acreage amounts to about 970 acres, all of it open to the public for passive recreation – hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, bird watching, etc.   No motorized vehicles allowed on WMA’s. *****

Free fishing days, no licenses required, are coming up:  In ME they are May 31 and June 1, in MA they are June 7 and 8, in NH it is June 7, in VT it is June 14 and in NY the days are June 28 and 29.   Good chance to try some of those fabled waters that you have always wanted to fish – the Beaverkill, AuSable, Battenkill, Penobscott and others .  Sorry, CT and RI free days have already come and gone. *****

Chris Porter, spokesman for the Onota Fishing Club reported that they had over 200 people participating in the Wild Acres fishing derby which took place on April 26.   Approximately 15 members from the Fishing Club were on hand for the event and they assisted some 150 kids with baiting, catching, netting, cleaning, etc., as well as providing poles for kids that needed them.

Over 50 trout were caught with some large rainbows included in that number.  Twelve tagged fish were caught with each young angler receiving a trophy for it.  All of the fish were again donated this year by Lyon Aviation.  Over 400 hamburgers, hot dogs and breakfast sandwiches were served.  All involved had a great time in spite of the rainy weather.  Incidentally, the entire event was free to the public, much to the amazement of many parents.   *****

The following local waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week:  Hoosic River in Cheshire and Adams, Walker Brook in Becket and Chester, Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and  Florida; Westfield River in Chester, Chesterfield, Cummington, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Hubbard River in Granville, Littleville Lake and Norwich Pond in Huntington, Pontoosuc Lake, Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Lake Buel, York Lake, Windsor Lake in North Adams, Otis Reservoir, Onota Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Windsor Pond in Windsor, Housatonic River in Pittsfield(SW), Lee and Stockbridge (C&R), Hop Brook in Lee and Tyringham, Konkapot River in Monterey, New Marlborough and Sheffield;  and the Buck and Clam Rivers in Sandisfield. *****

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.  Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818..


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