Welcome Back Loons!


The Loon Watch season has begun! The Loon Watch committee currently has four Loon Rangers, one for each lake, McCullough, Morton, Beaver and Dunn. However, we are always looking for additional volunteers! Please contact Kim Bires-Jenich at, kbiresjenich@gmail.com if you are interested in becoming a Loon Ranger. Loon Ranger responsibilities include observing the loons once a week from ice-out until fall migration (shorter observation time spans are also encouraged), and recording sightings on the provided Loon Watch forms. Sporadic loon observations are also welcome, and can be emailed to the same address. If interested you may also contact the Loon Watch program directly at Loon Watch at Northland College. Loon Watch is sponsored by Northland College in Ashland Wisconsin. The program has been in existence since 1978, and gathers information each year regarding loon distribution and reproductive success. Most of the information is gathered by Loon Ranger volunteers.

The NLOAA Loon Watch committee is excited to announce that by early May a loon pair has been sighted on each lake! That is a total of eight loons in Natural Lakes Preserve! We are hopeful for a successful nesting season! The last loon chick observed in Natural Lakes was on Morton Lake in August of 2017. It was a late summer chick, which usually indicates a nesting failure earlier in the season. The following year, in June of 2018, a failed nest was observed on Morton Lake. In 2019 two failed nests were observed on the McCullough Lake islands. On Memorial weekend of that year, a nest failed on the island closest to the channel. Again, on July 5th a second nest failed on the island closest to the river entrance that leads to Beaver Lake. There are many factors that contribute to loon nest failures; predation (eagles and otter), water level changes, black fly infestation (a black fly specific to loons), territorial disputes challenging resident loons, initial breeding failures with young loon pairs, and last but not least, human interference.

As summer recreation activities begin (and we all need these activities more than ever!) please help protect our Natural Lake’s loon population and breeding success by observing the following Loon Watch and DNR guidelines. Thank you so much for your consideration and care of our loon population!

  • Please keep a distance of 200 feet when watching loons. This distance is especially important near a loon nest site. Disturbance can cause a loon to abandon its nest.

  • Avoid islands between ice-out and mid July (although some loons nest through the end of July). The islands on McCullough Lake are owned by the State of Wisconsin and under the jurisdiction of the DNR. In order to support loon nesting and reproduction, the DNR has ruled the islands off limits from ice out until July 10th. Signs will soon be posted on each island.

  • Use non-lead fishing sinkers and jigs. Ingesting just one lead sinker or jig can kill a loon.

  • Never fish or cast near loon nests or swimming loons.

  • Keep shorelines natural and help decrease aquatic plant growth by limiting the use of fertilizers.

  • Be a responsible boater. Never chase loons or run motored watercraft over areas where loons have been seen. Loon chicks have died from being hit by propellers.

  • Harassing protected waterfowl carries a fine of $500 and/or time in jail. Harassing a protected species like the Common Loon carries a $1000 fine and 90 days in jail. If you witness a violation you are encouraged to call your local DNR enforcement officer or the nearest US Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement office.

For additional information, please refer to the attachments distributed by the Northland College Loon Watch Program. Also for the latest nesting updates check the Loon Nesting Updates blog.


The NLOAA Loon Watch Committee Chairperson,

Kim Bires-Jenich


Help Protect Loons - Northland College Loon Watch

Loon Facts & Phenology - Northland College Loon Watch

Take a Stand - Use Non-Lead Tackle - Northland College Loon Watch

Lead Free Tackle Manufacturers - Northland College Loon Watch

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