It is a calm August evening, and we find ourselves on a small forested lake in northern Michigan. A retired couple occupies the only cottage along its shore, and they have spent much of their spring and summer closely following the progress of the lake’s nesting loon pair. Two chicks hatched in June, maturated over the ensuing two months, and now – as we congregate on a deck overlooking the water – idle with their parents upon the copper glass of dusk. Although the setting is postcard idyllic, we have come to it guided by the informed suspicion that the lake’s fish and, by extension, its loons harbor troublingly high levels of the elemental toxin mercury. The principles informing this conjecture are mildly complicated, and as the last color bleeds off the horizon we attempt to answer the couple’s questions regarding the hows and whys of mercury contamination. Then, with darkness advanced, we slide a canoe into the water. Over the next three hours we corral members of the loon family one at a time, applying the colorbands that will enable identification in future seasons, collecting the feathers and blood that will illuminate their mercury burden, taking a short series of measurements, and then releasing them back to the lake unharmed. Afterward, the couple, who has observed the process with keen attention and periodic photography, mentions that their granddaughter will soon graduate with a degree in natural resources, and might be interested in volunteering for our organization in some capacity. We promise to keep in touch regarding this possibility, and regarding the laboratory results of the mercury testing. Several weeks later, a generous donation in support of our work arrives in the mail.

We at Common Coast are buoyed by the frequency with which portions of this scenario manifest themselves in our interactions with individuals, groups and organizations. We welcome all questions involving loons and their habitat, and will do our best to either reply promptly or redirect inquirers to destinations that can respond more authoritatively. We seek communication with lakeowners to help protect and/or improve the circumstances for specific pairs, and to gather information about occupancy and productivity that will assist us in better monitoring loons on local, regional and statewide levels. For individuals with an interest in fieldwork, there are abundant opportunities to assist the efforts of CCRC on a volunteer basis (a circumstance especially true in light of the recent botulism outbreak on Lake Michigan). Similarly, we welcome possible collaborations with organizations and agencies in projects that can benefit common loons, and in those that can benefit from their inclusion. Lastly, we deeply appreciate the financial contributions that play a significant role in maintaining the viability of Common Coast. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, such assistance is tax-deductible, and can, if desired, be directed toward the specific interests of a benefactor. The JustGive website provides the easiest method of contributing to our work. Alternately, donations can be sent directly to:

~ Common Coast Research & Conservation, PO Box 202, Hancock MI 49930 ~

Under all forms of inquiry and support, we look forward to hearing from you soon.