Loon taking flight

Help us count the loons at Killarney

Calling all citizen scientists!

Grab your paddle and join us for the 23rd Annual Loon Counts at Killarney Provincial Park.

  • Spring Count: Saturday, June 8, 2019
  • Summer Count: Saturday, August 10, 2019

What’s a loon count?

loon sitting in the reeds

Killarney has been hosting Loon Counts for 22 years as part of the Canadian Lakes Loon Survey by Birds Study Canada to monitor our loon populations.

The spring count is done mainly to see if we observe pairs of loons. The summer count is done to observe if those pairs have nested or had any young.

Volunteers take to canoes and spread out across the park, recording each loon sighting.

Why are we counting the loons?

Loons are an important member of Killarney’s ecosystem and a great indicator species. Loons require a healthy ecosystem to provide adequate food for their survival, so monitoring their activity can indicate the health of our lakes.

David Lake

Decades ago, acid rain impacted the park’s aquatic ecosystems – water quality declined and food for the loons became scarce, and they left. Reduction in air pollution improved water quality, the park’s aquatic ecosystems have rebounded and the loons have returned.

Data collected from Loon Counts helps track the recovery of lakes suffering from environmental stressors, such as acid rain damage. Today, populations are greatly affected by an increase in human pressure, such as the presence of cottages, boating and fishing. Data collected suggests that the Common Loon reproduction rate has declined over the last 30 years.

swimming loon with chick

By participating in loon counts, we also aid scientists in understanding loon populations in Killarney Provincial Park, so that we can take action to protect them.

Information collected from counts across the country is sent to Bird Studies Canada (their Canadian Lakes Loon Survey started in 1981) to provide information on loon population trends. These reports improve our understanding of loons, lakes, and our impact on them. This will help to conserve these very special birds and their habitat. Learn more about the survey here.

I’m in! When’s the count?

Volunteer loon counters will meet at the Park Nature Centre in the George Lake Campground at 9:00 a.m. Killarney’s naturalist team will give a brief orientation on how to survey safely, accurately and respectfully.

Killarney paddlers

Then volunteers will be split into teams and sent to their assigned lakes. Loons will be counted on the survey lakes between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Volunteers from the spring count get the chance to check up on the loons they spotted in June.

Volunteers must register in advance by email (killarneydiscovery@ontario.ca).

I want to volunteer for the loon count, but…

woman filling cup at cookout…I might get hungry

Volunteers are responsible for packing their own lunch.

We suggest lots of snacks to stay energized for your paddle!

…I don’t live close to Killarney

tent and canoe on campsiteThe more counters we have, the more accurate our count will be. That’s why we’re inviting volunteers from across Ontario.

For those driving a long distance, a complimentary campsite can be provided in the George Lake Campground for volunteers (space permitting). If it’s already full (possible for the summer count), there are camping accommodations in the town of Killarney at Rocher Rouge Campground.

Similarly, for those wishing to survey interior lakes, a backcountry site can be provided for Saturday night. If possible, please bring your own canoe for the event. A few hike-in lakes are also available.

Don’t forget to sign up!

loon in nest

Register to volunteer at the Spring Loon Count by email (killarneydiscovery@ontario.ca).