“Late-season loon rescued from icy trap,” reads the headline on page five of the November 30, 1979 issue of the Ashland Daily Press.
Framed by photos of the loon rescue and ads for Ungrout Hardware and Meyer’s Walgreen Agency, the Daily Press article describes how Rick Newton and Gary Cholwek from Wisconsin Project Loon Watch traveled to Tiger Cat Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin, to help a loon who had become trapped by encroaching ice. Using an axe to propel a canoe across the ice-covered lake, Newton and Cholwek captured the loon using a landing net and then transported it to the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute on the Northland College campus in Ashland, Wisconsin, where it spent the night in a bathtub filled with water.
The next morning, Newton and Cholwek banded the loon—at the time the second of only two successful loon bandings in Wisconsin—and then released the loon in Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay at a location with enough open water for it to successfully take off and continue its southerly migration.
In the 1970s, concern about what appeared to be a precipitous decline in Common Loon populations across their traditional breeding ranges was growing, and the need for a long-term monitoring program had been identified. As Gary Cholwek explains in the first Wisconsin Project Loon Watch Report, LoonWatch “was initiated in 1978 to respond to that need.”
Now in its forty-fourth year, LoonWatch continues to gather longitudinal data about common loons through its Annual Lakes Monitoring Program and, since 1985, through its Wisconsin Loon Population Survey, which is conducted every five years.
LoonWatch has also expanded its focus to include education through online informational resources, workshops and presentations, creating annual Loon Appreciation Week posters, and loon and lead alert signage. LoonWatch supports research on loons through its Common Loon Research Award.
Sigurd Olson wrote often about loons, and in his essay “Campfires,” he observes that “when a loon called from the open lake and then swam like a ghost into the circle of light, the scene was touched with magic.” If you’d like more loon magic in your life, please follow some of the links below to explore deeper in the archives, support our mission, or connect with our programs.