by Joanne C. Williams, State Coordinator, MLPA/MLW
The basic ingredient of our Michigan Loonwatch Program data recording system is the Loon Ranger Lake Report Form. The form has evolved over the fourteen years that Loonwatch has been active, having begun as a simple one page format. It later became three double-sided pages for a brief time as we sought to obtain more detailed background information on the lakes under observation. Today’s concise form addresses many facets of the information which we use in our database in order to further protection of the Common Loon and its habitat here in Michigan. Still, the form is never considered to be a finished product, but will continue to be revised and refined as time goes on. Many refinements are a result of suggestions from Rangers, Coordinators and MLPA members.
The Loon Rangers, who are the front-line observers monitoring the loon lakes, complete a form each year for each lake that they are watching. When the Loon nesting season is over, the Rangers send the completed form to the State Coordinator for compilation and entry into the database. Copies of the completed forms are forwarded to the Area Coordinator for their particular counties. Each year, for the lakes they visit in their region, the AC’s also complete a final Site (Lake) Visit Report Form, as well as an August Mid-Season Report Form with preliminary nesting data to help us begin to enter the season’s data.
The LR Lake Report Form is divided into several sections. The front page has two separate areas: the top half is for the current year’s data; the bottom part for information and or update from the previous (or any other past) year. The county, lake and township, range and section (TRS) are at the top of the form: information that exactly locates the lake. The spaces for entry of the season’s statistics, nest locations, and first and last sightings of the loons and chicks follow.
The reverse side of the form has places for the Ranger’s information, as well as geographical and usage information about the lake. Others who are part of the environmental agencies, enforcement and services network, as well as information about those who might be able to act as Alternate Ranger are listed. In addition, there is space at the bottom to sketch a map. Michigan Natural Features Inventory has made maps of some takes available to us, and each year we send a copy to the Ranger to return to us at season’s end with their notations. This map is included, along with other materials, in the annual spring Loonwatch packet provided to each Ranger with the season’s updated Loon Ranger Manual pages as well as a new report form for that year.
The Lake Report Forms are a very necessary part of the gathering of data needed for the work of Michigan Loonwatch and the Michigan Loon Preservation Association, enabling us to share data with other states as well as with other agencies within Michigan. But none of this would be possible without the dedication of our Loon Rangers and Area Coordinators. Their work and observations, year after year, are what keep the Loonwatch program alive and allow us to compile the data vital to our efforts for the protection and preservation of the beautiful Common Loon and its habitat. We send them our sincere thanks and gratitude.