Since 1978, LoonWatch’s Annual Lakes Monitoring Program has engaged an active volunteer network of Loon Rangers as its primary tool to collect critical long-term data on loons in northern Wisconsin. Working as population monitors and environmental educators, these volunteers have been the field force that has provided SOEI and WI DNR with data, and contributed to environmental awareness. With threats such as oil spills, mercury, and lead poisoning, and habitat loss, long-term monitoring programs are essential to detect changes in loon population and help develop clever management strategies.
Who can volunteer?
Anyone who lives or vacations on a Wisconsin lake can send us their observations.
How often do I need to monitor the loons?
We recommend that volunteers observe loon activity as often as possible on the lake—the more observations you make, the more confidence you will have in your interpretation of the summer’s events. However, useful information can come from as little as one day of observations—so don’t hesitate to join the Annual Lake Monitoring Program.
What if someone is already monitoring the lake?
We have a number of lakes with multiple observers. This is OK. It helps to ensure that someone will send us information because sometimes people can’t get out as often as they plan. We usually allow two volunteers on small and medium sized lakes, and possibly more on very large lakes and flowages. We do encourage volunteers to work together whenever possible to create a more complete picture of loon activity at a lake on one monitoring form.
Is there specific information you’re looking for?
Yes. Loon Rangers should download a monitoring form each spring, which asks for information such as when loons first arrived on the lake, if they nested or just visited the lake, if they had chicks, how many chicks they had, and if there are any threats to the loon nest site. This information is gathered throughout spring and summer, and then the volunteer returns the form to us in the fall.
What if I don’t know anything about loons, but I still want to help?
We encourage new volunteers to attend a Loon Ranger Workshop to learn about loons, receive training in loon monitoring, and to interact with experienced Loon Rangers. If you are not available for one of the workshops, however, you can still participate in the program. Volunteers may download a Loon Ranger Instruction Packet and explore our website for other information about loons to help them learn more about this northern bird.
How do I sign up?
Call or send us an email and tell us what county you are in and what lake you would like to monitor.