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Loons are making a comeback in the Adirondacks

The haunting, howl-like call of the common loon is enough to give one goosebumps on a dark Adirondack night.

Those who are woken up by these “where are you?” calls might prefer quiet (and some sleep), but the loons are a special part of the Adirondack Park’s soundscape.

Threatened by mercury poisoning, habitat degradation, predators and humans, to name a few, the iconic Adirondack bird is on the rebound, flourishing in the area’s freshwater lakes, streams and ponds at near peak numbers.

Nina Schoch, executive director of the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, estimates there are between 1,800 and 2,000 adult loons in the Adirondack Park, up from about 400 in the 1970s. It’s an encouraging sign for the many organizations that participate in a loon population count every third Saturday in July.

Sometimes referred to as the “spirit of northern waters,” loons breed in parts of Alaska, Canada and around the Great Lakes, northern New York and New England.

Those fortunate enough to see these rather large adult birds (they can weigh between 6 and 14 pounds, or so) during the breeding season might be captivated by their blood-red eyes, coal black heads and black-and-white patterned plumage.

When their babies are a few weeks old, an even luckier person might see an adult swimming with a chick on its back.

If Adirondackers haven’t seen a loon, most have probably heard one. They have distinctive vocalizations, from the long howl-like calls to a fluttering high-pitched distress call, called a tremolo. They even yodel.

Observing the progress

While the population numbers from this summer haven’t been crunched just yet, Schoch said the Adirondack Park is starting to reach its carrying capacity — that is the number of loons or organisms an area can support before there’s degradation to the environment.

For the Adirondacks, that number is about 1,000 breeding pairs, according to a 2015 loon status report that Schoch and others published.

Lake George has been part of the annual survey since at least 2004, when no loons were spotted. Schoch said in 2017, volunteers counted 13 loons on the lake. 2018 numbers are not yet available.

Kristen Rohne Wilde, director of education at the Lake George Association, leads the local population count every year and said it’s always a good time for volunteers. The survey began at 8 a.m. July 21. Groups of people split up and scoured the shoreline and open water, mostly by boat.

Volunteers assigned to Lake George Village were ecstatic to see three loons that morning, Wilde said. Often, people think loons keep to the quieter northern waters, but Wilde said they can appear in any part of the lake.

“I think a lot of people just enjoy seeing them,” Wilde added. “I think because they aren’t so common that when you do see them, it’s just interesting.”

Courtesy of Nina Schoch 

A loon is seen in September on Middle Pond. 

Schoch, who has studied how mercury pollution has impacted loons for the last two decades, is glad to see her birds rebounding.

“One, I enjoy watching the birds, and it’s good to know I’m helping the population in different ways,” she said. “The other is increasing people’s awareness about loons and other wildlife, and what they can do to help wildlife populations and the environment.”

Threats still exist, and could worsen

Even though loons are doing well, they still face plenty of threats, and one of the biggest is people.

Wildlife lovers sometimes get too close, disturbing nesting sites and causing undue stress to the birds.

Anglers, Schoch said, also need to be careful with fishing line. In late August, a dead loon was found tangled up in it on Cranberry Lake and had likely drowned, the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation reported on its Facebook page.

Schoch is also encouraging anglers to stop using lead lures. Loons have been known to die from lead poisoning after accidentally ingesting them.

Mercury poisoning from coal-fired power plants was a problem for years, and the effects continue to linger in the food web. Schoch explained that mercury levels start out low in invertebrates, but as fish eat the invertebrates, the mercury accumulates.

If a loon eats contaminated fish, it ingests higher levels of mercury, a neurotoxin that affects their behavior. High mercury levels are bad for humans as well, and loons are often used as an indicator species to see how the environment is doing for not just wildlife, but also people.

Since the Clean Air Act was passed, mercury emissions have decreased and levels found in loons are much lower, Schoch said. Despite the positive trend, she’s concerned about the direction the federal government is going when it comes to environmental regulations.

“I think it’s going backwards,” Schoch said. “We were going ahead. Pollution is a huge problem throughout the world, and to have pollution regulations decreased means that there’s going to be more pollution and health impacts for people and for animals and their habitats.”

Loon Status Report

Aside from human-caused problems, loons, especially youngsters, have to deal with predators, too. Bald eagles are a common threat, as are scavengers, like raccoons, that can prowl around nests.

A somewhat new predator was discovered this year, Schoch said, after capturing black bears on a trail camera eating loon eggs.

“That was pretty unusual,” she said.

The birds, however, are resilient. They keep people coming back to the Adirondacks, to the lakes, to hear that almost transcendental call.

Wilde said she had an email from a person who is visiting Lake George for Thanksgiving, asking her where they could see a loon.

“That’s what they want to see,” Wilde said. “It’s very iconic for the Adirondacks. It’s just one of those things.”

Police identify husband as shooter of wife

CORINTH — State Police said Saturday that the Corinth woman who was shot to death Thursday night was accidentally killed by her husband as he cleaned a gun.

No charges have been filed against Eric Rosenbrock in connection with the death of his 34-year-old wife, Ashley Rosenbrock.

State Police said Mr. Rosenbrock, 35, was “performing maintenance” on a handgun that he legally owns when it fired, hitting his wife. The shooting happened in the couple’s Raymond Street home around 10:30 p.m.

Ashley R. Rosenbrock

CORINTH — As the snow fell from the heavens, blanketing our world and those who love us with Vivi kisses, Ashley left us to begin a journey we are devastated by. Our only saving grace is that she is with her girl again.

Mrs. Rosenbrock was taken to Saratoga Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy was performed Saturday by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Siikirica, who determined the death was “consistent with the information and evidence that has been discovered to this point in the investigation,” State Police said in a news release.

Police did not say what type of handgun fired the shot, where Mrs. Rosenbrock was hit or explain how the gun came to discharge.

Mr. Rosenbrock was cooperative with investigators, and was questioned extensively late Thursday and early Friday, authorities said.

Though the shooting is being labeled an accident, charges that allege he was negligent or reckless could potentially be pursued, such as criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter.

Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen would not comment on the prospect of charges on Friday, but police said the investigation was ongoing.

Mr. Rosenbrock is a science teacher in the Lake George school district. The couple has three young children, and neighbors described them as dedicated parents and nice people. Their 18-month-old daughter died of an infection 5 years ago, and the family had been involved in extensive fundraising in the years since.

Jason Proctor, the pastor at the United Methodist Church in Corinth, where Ashley and Eric met as teens and later married, told Post-Star newspartner NewsChannel 13 that the Rosenbrocks had a wonderful love for each other and their three children.

Proctor said Ashley wanted to share her faith with her children, so she recently started teaching a church school program.

A celebration of life will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday at First United Methodist Church at 243 Main St. in Corinth. 

A private committal service will be held at Corinth Rural Cemetery.

Donations in Ashley’s memory can be made to the First United Methodist Church, 243 Main St., Corinth, NY 12822; The Brave Will Foundation, 371 Schauber Road, Ballston Lake, NY 12019, c/o Matt and Tammy Hladun (; or the Vivienne Eloise Scholarship Fund, c/o Lake George School District.

The fatal accidental shooting is the second in Saratoga County in a matter of weeks.

Police said a 61-year-old man was killed in a Wilton motel on Oct. 7 after a resident of an adjacent room accidentally fired a gun that put a round through a wall. Michael Kornacki was found dead in his room three days later, and his relatives have questioned how the shooting could have occurred as police concluded.

The alleged shooter, Daniel Salas-Miranda, 40, has been jailed on a felony weapon charge, as he did not legally possess the gun, and a count that alleged he is a Mexican immigrant who is in the country illegally. He is being held in Saratoga County Jail.

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