28 August 2008

Banding Loons

I volunteered to monitor loon activity on the lake where I reside and so I have become one of the Wisconsin Loon Citizen Scientists. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is conducting a study of loons in Northern Wisconsin to develop a model to predict population estimates and also study stressors such as mercury exposure, loss of habitat, predation, and disturbances caused by human activity.

My job has been to survey the lake, monitor loon activity, determine if the loons are banded, and record the data. Here on Towanda Lake, the territorial pair is not banded and produced two chicks, though, only one chick has survived.

On August 4th three DNR scientists came to the boat landing around 9:30 pm and I met them there. When I arrived there was a tarp laid out on the ground under the landing's light with various boxes and devices laid out.

I didn't realize that we'd be bringing the loons back to shore where the banding takes place as well as a blood draw, feather clipping, and weighing.

We waited until it was pitch dark to go onto the lake in search of the loons. I accompanied the scientists in the boat to watch the capture of the loons.

Spotlights and lights attached at the forehead were used to locate the loons on the lake. The family was found together, which was unusual. Generally, according to one of the scientists, the chick at 6-7 weeks is left alone at night. (correction: it is not often that both adults are found with a chick 6-7 weeks old, but one is generally close by.) As soon as the loons became aware of us, one of the parents began to move away from the family group. Using a huge net which is larger than our muskie net, one of the scientists scooped up the largest loon which was trying to lead us away from the other parent with the chick. I was surprised that it only took one attempt. Of course the net twisted and it took awhile to right the net, untangle the loon's legs, and gather the bird into temporary captivity without injury to the bird or the scientist. We had three plastic storage containers with lids in the boat ready for each bird. Once in the container with the lid attached the loon settled down. At the time there must have been a lot of noise from the loon, but I don't remember it. I do remember some squawks, but not the normal loon sounds.

We then proceeded to locate the remaining loons. The chick submerged and the parent swam in the opposite direction. Again the DNR scientist was quick to scoop up the parent and this time the net didn't twist so the loon was quickly removed from the net and placed in a container. The chick took a little longer to capture. As soon as we would see it and move closer, it would see us and submerge. The scientists had brought along a recording with sounds that a parent makes. The recording helped to attract the chick and it was finally scooped up and we returned to shore.

The loons in their containers were brought ashore. The scientists began with the largest loon who was the male. They began by weighing the bird. "My loons" seemed to be average.

The loons were placed on the tarp where blood was drawn. It will be analyzed for mercury content which will let the scientists know

how much mercury the loons have been exposed to this summer on the lake. They didn't flinch when the needle was injected and were fairly quiet while being handled by the scientists. (Or maybe that was due to the expertise of the scientists.) The scientists had to be careful because the adults can cause injury with their mouths and beaks.

Each loon had different colored bands placed on each leg. Band combinations are recorded by leg, and position of the band on the leg and each bird has a unique combination. The birds can be identified in successive years as they return to the lakes or are found in another part of the country (alive or dead).
The metal/silver band is the US Fish and Wildlife Band. It is placed on the right leg of adults and left leg of chicks. Once chicks leave the area in the fall they will not return until mature, 3 years from now. So when a silver band is seen on an adult loon on it's left leg, the bird has survived its migration, life on the ocean, and returned to its birth place.

The last thing that is done is to clip a feather from each wing. The analysis of mercury content will let the scientists know the amount of mercury that the birds have been exposed to over their lifetime.

Below is the chick. It's not very experienced on land, though, all loons are awkward on land because their legs are set so far back on their long bodies. It's coloring is different from it's parents, much more muted. The chick's bite doesn't hurt either. I was able to feel the chick and was surprised by how warm it was.

Each loon in turn was returned to its container. The male and female began calling to each other so they were removed from the light so they wouldn't get agitated and hurt themselves. All three were returned to the same area of the lake where they had been captured. The next morning I was out early to check on them even though the scientists assured me that they would be back to normal as if nothing had happened in the night. And they were.

If you want to learn more about loons, Citizen Loon Scientists or Loon Rangers check out one of these links:


The Loon Project,

All About Loons,

"Rangers" do everything in their power to protect the loon or,

Oneida County is the center of loon behavioral research

Thanks to Jeff Smith for sharing these photographs taken during the process.

Turbo Tagger

25 August 2008

Little Computer Time...Watching and Listening Instead

Wow! Has it been that long since my last blog? I've been watching the Olympics for the last two weeks so I haven't been using the computer as much as I usually do.

I have been listening to podcasts while cleaning and driving to and fro. I've never read Dracula by Bram Stoker so I downloaded it awhile ago after finding another source for literary podcasts, Lit2Go, from Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse.

Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. You can:

Download the files to your Mp3 player and listen on the go,
Listen to the Mp3 files on your computer,
View the text on a webpage and read along as you listen,
Print out the stories and poems to make your own book.

The narrator for Dracula was very good, so I'm going back there to download some other titles.

I've also been listening to RezEd podcasts. RezEd(beta)is a community for everything related to learning and virtual worlds.
Each month the site will feature inter-related podcasts, brief best practices, digital resources in the library, and featured blog posts and discussions.
The podcasts have been very interesting for me since I haven't actually tried out any virtual worlds myself and thus far the topics discussed in the podcasts have been informative for any level of user. The month of August has been devoted to school uses of virtual worlds. There are many upcoming learning events within virtual worlds listed too. Makes me want to become more involved with SL.

Turbo Tagger

01 August 2008

Jing (continued)

I think I'm getting how to use Jing better now.

First of all, when I used Jing to capture the image, of course, I did it a couple of times initially. After my previous blog post was published, I went back and deleted the extra images from my Jing history and Screencast. And of course, when I returned to the blog, the image was no longer opening and neither was the link. So, delete extra images BEFORE sharing.

And guess what else I discovered during the process of correcting my mistakes? The image is automatically linked. Just click anywhere on the abbreviated image and it opens the complete image.

Secondly, I now understand that Jing works along with Screencast. The Jing Project and Screencast have both been created by TechSmith. "Jing is designed to be fast-visual communication shared with others in a variety of locations". Jing is free and resides on your computer.
Screencast.com is TechSmith’s media hosting solution that Jing uses to securely host your content. It’s perfect for the kind of images and videos you’ll want to make with Jing. We use Screencast.com to ensure everyone has access to a free, secure hosting option that enables the fastest visual communication possible. You can upload or save your content in lots of other places too!
So, after you capture an image or create a video, you can save with these methods:
  • Screencast.com
  • Local folder
  • Network drive
  • Copy to your clipboard (images only)
  • FTP server
  • Flickr

I didn't understand that only images could be saved to the clipboard. I have since found that, if the image or video is saved at Screencast, you can then get and share the url, embed link, or embed on your page/blog. I haven't tried to save to my computer or Flickr yet.

I definitely recommend reading the Jing Blog especially "Getting Started with Jing" in the Recent Entries section or "How Do I..." in the Categories section.