PORTLAND, Maine - The number of loon chicks in southern Maine's lakes and ponds has increased dramatically over last year's count.
The count by Maine Audubon used almost 900 volunteer counters who looked at 304 lakes and ponds across the state.
They found a 76 percent increase in the estimate of chicks - to 384.
But Audubon wildlife biologist Susan Gallo says, contrary to appearances, the trend for chicks is flat.
"The number of chicks that we estimate tends to vary from year to year - it goes up and down pretty wildly," Gallo says. "We never quite know what the chick count is going to be. But last year was a big increase, but it doesn't really mean anything in terms of a long-term trend. We see that as pretty flat."
Meanwhile, the adult population is, on average, rising over time. That's true even though it was just very slightly up last year, and down from the five-year average.
Maine's loons aren't a threatened or endangered species, but Gallo says they are of concern because warming temperatures associated with climate change are bad for the species.
Gallo says the increased number of chicks may be due in part to the dry summer, which left more safe nesting sites right on the water where Loons like to lay their eggs.