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IT’S BACK TO THE FUTURE FOR LOONS IN MASSACHUSETTS
By Bridget MacDonald
In the predawn hours of a night in mid July when you were probably sound asleep, two teams of wildlife biologists met at an undisclosed location along the New York-Massachusetts border to exchange a load of extremely precious cargo: six-week old loon chicks.
Just a few hours earlier, members of the New York crew had been poised in a small boat on a lake in the Adirondacks with a spotlight at the ready, broadcasting recordings of loon calls.
“The chicks think it’s another loon,” explained Lee Attix, Loon Conservation Specialist and Wildlife Research Biologist for the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). “Lots of times they will just swim right up to the boat.” That’s when the spotlight comes into play. Like deer in headlights, the chicks freeze, allowing the scientists to capture them swiftly and safely.
“It’s a pretty successful procedure,” said Attix, explaining, “We’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Nearly thirty years, in fact. Since 1989, BRI has captured, banded, and recaptured more than 5,000 common loons to track movement and health of individual birds, and has been a key partner for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife since 1993. “Our collaboration with BRI has resulted in a wealth of information on the status of loons and their importance to the northern forest,” said Drew Major, Environmental Contaminants Specialist at the Service’s New England Field Office.
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