June 28, 2024

Volunteers sought for Annual Loon Count on Sebago Lake

At 7 a.m. Saturday, July 20, for just 30 minutes, 1,600 of your Maine neighbors will quietly arrive on lakes and ponds throughout the state to count Maine’s loons.

Maine Audubon is actively seeking 50 volunteers to help
count loons and loon chicks on Sebago Lake during the
state's official loon count on July 20. COURTESY PHOTO
The single, largest contingent of Maine’s counters, about 50 volunteers, will be counting one of New England’s largest and most popular bodies of water – Sebago Lake. Want to be a part of this year’s count? Organizers are actively looking for help.

For 38 years, counting Sebago Lake’s 100-plus miles of shorefront, nearly one trillion gallons of fresh water, and 49 separate survey areas represented a huge challenge to Maine Audubon. Despite the efforts of many, the entire lake was never fully counted.

That meant that the work of volunteer counters around the lake who had faithfully counted loons in their neighborhoods over the years was never eligible to appear in the ‘official’ records.

In 2022, Sebago Lake resident Brad McCurtain was intrigued by the challenge. McCurtain had never participated in any of the prior Maine Audubon counts. Maine Audubon gave him a list of six other lake residents with counting experience and asked him to become the lake’s coordinator.

He invited each of those six individuals to a ZOOM meeting asking for their ideas. They quickly became inspired and determined to create a plan to cover all of Sebago Lake that year.

It was apparent that counting a body of water as massive as Sebago Lake clearly is not the work of just a handful of people. It would take a village -- seven villages in fact.

Counters were recruited from each of the seven communities that border on Sebago Lake. The counters soon grew beyond lake residents. A number of them don’t live on or even near Sebago Lake. But they all love the lake, are enchanted by the loons, and want to be a part of the count.

The result was Sebago’s first-ever, full count in 2022 with some 50 volunteers appearing at 7 a.m. sharp on the day of the event to quietly count loons on 30,000 acres of water over the next hour. That year they observed 32 adult loons and a single chick.

Last year in 2023, the group returned with more volunteers and observed 44 adult loons on Sebago Lake.

“It is pretty incredible to look out over Sebago and view dozens and dozens of watercraft slowly, quietly, and methodically trolling the entire lake early on a July morning for one purpose: to observe and to count the lake’s loons,” McCurtain said. "No other count in Maine is quite like Sebago’s.”

The group will be back on Sebago Lake counting again at 7 a.m. sharp on Saturday, July 20. A few of Sebago Lake’s survey areas are expected to open up for new counters.

Anyone with a motorboat, canoe, kayak, or SUP has an opportunity to join in the experience including individuals, families, neighbors, and friends.

To sign up to participate, send an email to SebagoLoons@gmail.com

"The loons are counting on us," McCurtain said. "We’re going to be counting them.” <

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