The Loon Census

Every summer the Northeast US states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine take a census of the loons on their lakes.  It is always done on the same day and at the same time.  This year it was on July 16th from 8 am to 9 am.

I volunteered to take a section of Long Lake below the bridge.   I was given about a half mile square section near the cove where out camp is.  On the appointed day I awoke at 7 am to the call of a loon out on the lake. This will be a piece of cake I thought.  We had seen two loons hanging out around our cove for a number of days so I assumed they would be out front waiting for me.

I decided to use my guideboat to search for the loons.  It is quiet and unobtrusive and somehow it invokes the old way of doing things.  The morning was overcast with a strong, chilly breeze out of the west.  Here I am suited up with binoculars ready to cast off.

Off to count loons.

Off to count loons.

Here are the boundaries of my section.  The southern boundary is a rocky point just off our cove and the northern boundary is Great Camp Greatstone.

 

The southern boundary of my loon census area assignment.

The southern boundary of my loon census area assignment.

The northern boundary.

The northern boundary, Great Camp Greatstone.

I was to take a line straight off these two landmarks to the far shore to define my search area.  Here is a view towards the north showing the conditions that day.

Looking north from the loon search area.

Looking north from the loon search area.

Well, I rowed around the area for an hour and nary a loon did I see.  Where were they?  Of course, the very next day they were both back as you can see.

My loon friends reappear the day after the census.

My loon friends reappear the day after the census.

The results of the census were pretty much what was reported over the last 5 years.  There were 11 loons counted, 4 below the bridge, and 7 north of the bridge.  As I recall, there were no loons seen below the bridge 10 years ago.  The area below the bridge is much more populated that that north of the bridge.  It is a much smaller area, about 3-4 miles long, compared to that north of the bridge, which is about 10 miles long.  Yet the loons don’t seem to mind the increased human activity; the motor boats, jet skis, kayakers and canoe parties.

Sometimes the loons carry on when one of Helm’s Aero Service float planes does a takeoff run down the lake. But it is probably just what Tom Helm’s says “Well, I drove off that big bird again”.  Sometimes they stop to yodel at Tom as he flies over and at other times I have seen them totally ignore the planes.  As the census shows they are obviously quite at home south of the bridge.

Helms Aero Service is certainly a landmark in Long Lake.  Tom’s father Herb founded it, with his brother Gib, in 1947.  Both Herb and Gib served in the European theater in World War II.  Herb flew 30 missions as a navigator on B-17’s while Gib was shot down and spent most of the War as a POW.

Tom joined his father as a pilot in 1972.  In nearly 70 years Helms Aero Service has never had an accident.  Here are some photos of the Helms enterprise.

Helms Aero Service Office at the Long Lake beach.

Helms Aero Service Office at the Long Lake beach.

Fran looks at photos of the Helms family history on the wall of the office.

Fran looks at photos of the Helms family history on the wall of the office.

A closeup of the Helms family history.

A closeup of the Helms family history.  Herb’s bomber crew is on the upper right.  Tom and Herb are show n at the lower left.

One of the two Aero service planes is show below.

One of the two Helms Aero Service float planes.

One of the two Helms Aero Service float planes.

A Helms plane takes off down the lake.

Take-off down the lake.

Take-off down the lake.

One last anecdote.  The fellow who built our Long Lake camp, Greg Wallace, grew up in Long Lake.  He said that a sure sign of spring in Long Lake was the first time they heard one of Tom’s planes take-off.

Next time: John Homer pays a visit.

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