The Squam Conservation Internship provides skills and experience for future conservation professionals while working as the driving force behind the SLA’s conservation mission. This volunteer internship provides hands-on conservation work experience and certifications over a broad range of activities. Interns serve as campsite hosts and caretakers at our backcountry campsites, work toward the eradication of variable milfoil, help preserve loon populations on Squam, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed. Learn more about the internship program here.
July 18, 2016
Last Wednesday, I cuddled a loon chick. What kind of conservation intern would violate such a basic principle – don’t touch wildlife – you might ask? The Squam Lakes Association interns got the amazing opportunity to help the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) band loons. The LPC bands loons who have successfully produced chicks on Squam Lake each year. This allows them to be able to track individual loons to follow their life history, and see if they return to Squam to breed in the future.
The process starts after dark, around 9 pm. We drove out to Heron Cove, where one of the loon pairs was with their chick. There, a boat with a bright spotlight tracks down one of the loon parents using binoculars, and then slowly approaches, keeping the light on the loon so they are unable to see the boat. Once close, the loon is netted and brought onto the boat, where its head is wrapped in a towel – this both calms the bird down and keeps its sharp beak from causing harm. Tonight, a chick was also around the female that was caught, so it was brought onto the boat too. I held the 10-day old chick in my hands, keeping its wings and feet tucked under my fingers. It was incredible soft, softer than I thought possible, and its tiny heart beat quickly against my palms. Meanwhile, the (very large!) adult bird was held tightly on someone’s lap while it was banded, measured, and weighed. I was able to be part of the search process for the second loon parent – the male loon who was already banded from last year – which was very exciting. This bird was warier than the female, and every time we’d be just close enough to catch it, it would dive down and pop up further away. At one point, I got to see the male darting around beneath the surface, gracefully and speedily. We were unable to catch the male, but since he was already banded from last year, that was alright.
Heading back after midnight, I couldn’t help but think about how incredible that experience was. We are lucky to have healthy, happy loons here on Squam, thanks to conservation work from the Loon Preservation Committee and organizations like Squam Lakes Association.
Maggie grew up in New Hampshire and is a rising junior at St. Lawrence University i majoring in Conservation Biology with a Global Studies minor.