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 unpaid 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, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Learn more about the internship program here. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed.
The opportunity to band loons with the LPC was one the other interns and I could not pass up. We left SLA at 9:00 PM to go loon banding on one of the work boats, Calypso, and another smaller boat to go out and catch the loons in. The mission included tagging two adult loons and their two chicks. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. I just figured it would probably be pretty hard to catch a loon. We arrived at Livermore cove and anchored Calypso, waiting in anticipation for it to be dark enough to begin the catch. Loons are smart birds, and if they see a boat coming up to them they’ll swim away, so, the strategy is to wait until it is dark enough so when we shine a very bright light in their direction they won’t be able to see what’s behind it.
Once it was dark enough five people headed out in the capture boat to fetch the first adult loon, while the rest of us stayed on Calypso trying to make out what was happening in the dark. Soon we saw the bright light skimming the surface of the water looking for the dark shadow of a loon, while fake loon calls were made to attract the loon. Quicker than expected, the light stopped moving, and I could see the glare of the loon’s eye’s reflecting with the light of the flashlight. Then the two sets of light moved closer and closer until there was only one. And then the second went out also. We knew it was a successful catch.
Once back on Calypso, EB volunteered to hold the loon while it was tagged. We all congregated around him trying to get the best view that we could, even though the loon's head was covered with a towel to keep it from seeing it’s surroundings and stressing it out more than it probably already was. I was surprised about how little movement the loon attempted, but that probably had something to do with the strong hug-like hold EB had around its body. The LPC's experienced loon banders worked as quickly as possible to put a green and silver band just above the loon’s foot, and to take a blood sample. The stress the loon was undergoing was soon evident when the loon began compulsively squirting poop all over the boat.
Soon it was time to let the loon go. We set it down in by the edge of the boat facing the direction it had come from and let it go. It quickly swam away, flapping it’s wings, and calling to it’s family.
In the next round of capture, the other parent and it’s two babies were caught. We all took turns passing around the fuzzy little babies, and getting pooped on. We could hardly mind getting pooped on because getting the opportunity to hold baby loon was well worth it, and something I will never forget.
Disclaimer: Do not try this at home.