common loons on Cranberry Lake, Nova Scotia

Posted on by David Patriquin
(WRWEO Conservation Committee)
22 July 2013

After reading a front page story in the Chronicle Herald this a.m. ("Chilling statistics on loon populations" - see online version here), I was happy to see two Common Loons (one adult and a chick, above) on Cranberry Lake later in the morning.

This lovely wilderness lake lies barely 14 km west of downtown Halifax as the crow flies. It is entirely enclosed by the Five Bridge Lakes Wilderness Area (FBLWA, formally protected in 2012), and is fed by Pot Lake, also entirely within the FBLWA and a headwater Lake for the Woodens River system. The loons are thereby protected from lakefront development, one cause of decline, but unfortunately not from the most serious causes: acid rain and mercury which come from the air above us and ultimately from our personal and public use of fossil fuels.

Southwest Nova Scotia particularly (including the FBLWA) has experienced the most extreme effects of acid rain because of the prominence of granitic rock which has low acid-buffering capacity and because it receives a lot of acidic rain carried here from the industrial heartlands of the U.S. and Canada. In fact, unlike areas to the west of us where emission controls have begun to reverse trends of increasing acidification of surface waters, our waters continue to further acidify.

Listen to loons on Frederick Lake on Earth Day, 2010
According to Bird Studies Canada (BSC), Canada hosts 95% of the global population of common loon breeding pairs, which makes this bird and its wonderful eerie calls pretty Canadian. How can we ensure they never stop? Pushing our politicians for still more stringent controls of mercury and acidifying emissions is one approach. BSC stresses that "each action taken by concerned Canadians, no matter how small, will help" and offers the following leads:
  • Lobby for loon and lake conservation.
  • Support loon and lake research.
  • Decrease your ecological footprint, especially by using less electricity and fossil fuels.
  • Participate in Bird Studies Canada's Canadian Lakes Loon Survey (details on back cover) and other lake conservation projects.
The Bird Studies Canada document "The Canadian Lakes Loon Survey 1981-2012" offers lots of interesting info. about The Common Loon, population trends and why it is a powerful indicator of lake health.

To see Cranberry Lake: Go to The Bluff Trail. The first loop circles this lake. The many little islands make prime habitat for breeding loons.