markinthepark seeking solitude

USGS/UMESC's Common Loon Movements & Migrations 2010-2011




Today I was wondering about the common loon that populates Algonquin Park's waterways. Of all the wildlife that I enjoy while visiting Algonquin Park, the loon is among my most favourite of species. I have often wondered where exactly they go in the winter. I know that they travel to the ocean along the United States east coast and also the golf coast.
The USGS(United States Geological Survey) has many research programs and one of them is the Common Loon Movements and Migration study 2010-2011. Kevin Kenow is the research biologist in charge of the program and actually has several studies underway, most pertaining to waterfowl.

The really interesting thing about this study is the use of satellite tracking in obtaining the location of loons selected for the study. The study covers two states; Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Now for the really interesting part: surfing the website
here, you can click on a specific loon and watch as its track is plotted on the web page via a flash player.
The majority of loons migrated to the gulf coast, where for the most part stayed far away from shore. There was one confirmed fatality as a loon succumbed to a respiratory tract infection.

There is also a link to previous migrations; covering other states such as New York, Maine and Massachusetts. It might not be Algonquin, but it sure has wetted my appetite, as I wait patiently for the ice to go out

If you click on the website today you can see most of the loons have already begun their migration north. It would be very interesting if such a program where run out of Algonquin Park, tracking our loons south and watching as they return each spring.

There has been some speculation about the gulf oil disaster of the previous spring and how it would affect the loon population. If this study is any indication (I know I'm reaching here), it looks like the loons in the study have fared well as they all appear to be returning successfully, so far. I will keep my fingers crossed.

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