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A Snapshot Of This Year’s Loon Census on Goose Pond In Canaan

Michael Riese, who's participated in the annual loon census for the past 12 years, scans Goose Pond in Canaan for the birds.
Daniela Allee
Michael Riese, who's participated in the annual loon census for the past 12 years, scans Goose Pond in Canaan for the birds.

The rain held off for about an hour Saturday morning as Michael and Allison Riese slowly motored across Goose Pond in Canaan, binoculars in hand, looking for the white bellies of loons.

As the couple scanned the southeastern part of the pond, they spotted white feathers through their binoculars.

“One, two, three four, at 8:08 a.m.,” Allison Riese wrote down on the sheet to keep track of the count.

Scenes like this one played out on lakes and ponds throughout New England on Saturday morning, as volunteers like the Rieses spent an hour on boats or kayaks counting the birds for the annual loon census.

Daniela Allee

The couple has volunteered for the annual census for the past 12 years. But they’ve loved loons since they bought their Canaan lake house in 2001.

“The very first night we slept in the house we were awoken at 4 o’clock in the morning with the loons just going bonkers out here,” Michael Riese said. “I thought, ‘This is cool! We have a New Hampshire lake house with loons.’”

The Rieses and other volunteers counted a total of eight loons on Goose Pond, but no chicks. Loons are considered a threatened species in the state, with 321 pairs counted last year.

“We figure we’ll do what we can to help out New Hampshire lakes,” Allison Riese says.

Data from volunteers helps the state’s Loon Preservation Committee keep track of loons’ behavior and supplements the data their biologists collect throughout the year.

“It helps us to discover if there are any nests that have hatched since our biologists were last there, whether any new nests have started again since our biologists last visited, and it helps us document chick survival,” said Caroline Hughes, the committee’s volunteer and outreach biologist.

Hughes said unpaired adult loons are difficult to count because they’re not tied to a particular lake.

The census also helps the committee monitor the progress of known loon nests, discover previously unknown nests, and check on the survival of chicks that have hatched in the previous weeks.

Volunteers also lookout for new loon chicks that may have hatched since biologists last surveyed a given water body.

Daniela is an editor in NHPR's newsroom. She leads NHPR's Spanish language news initiative, ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? and the station's climate change reporting project, By Degrees. You can email her at
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