- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) - Experts estimate there are nearly 300 adult loons living on Vermont’s lakes and ponds, up from just a couple dozen 30 years ago.

On Saturday, more than 200 volunteers spread out across Vermont for the annual loon survey.

The results of the survey are trickling in, but Eric Hanson of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the coordinator of the Vermont Loon Conservation Project, said there are many more birds now than just a few years ago. He said 15 years ago there were around 100 loons. In 1983, biologists counted only 29.

“It is a decent, stable population. I’m hoping that actually things do start to level out. And we’re seeing signs of that,” he told Vermont Public Radio (http://bit.ly/1sGxy67) . “If you go up to the lakes in north-central, northeastern Vermont, almost every large lake has loons on it now. So that’s a sign of a good recovery.”

There are some signs of nest failures, too, from intruder loons, he said. The loons might disturb the parents, who then don’t get around to nesting. In some cases, the chicks are killed or lost or the adult loons are killed during the intrusion.

But loon competition is a sign of a healthy population, Hanson said. The loons are expanding on some smaller ponds but they tend to be less successful because good nest sites are already taken.

“The one place in the state where we probably still could see some expansion is in west-central Vermont . Lake Catherine up to Lake Hortonia. There’s some good waters over there that could house the loons, and we’re just not seeing loons utilize that water yet,” he said.