Bird Islands in Dams

To: Andrew Hobbs <>, <>, Birding Aus <>
Subject: Bird Islands in Dams
From: Judith Hoyle <>
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 07:10:26 +0000

Hi Everyone,

In response to the debate bird islands in dams, I have cut and pasted the 
article below off the net from Alaska.  Jean Tam's work with Loons in Connors 
Lake in Anchorage shows how successful a very simple approach can be in 
providing refuge for nesting birds.  I have visited this lake with Jean and 
Scott and as you can see from the photos the pontoon is not far from shore.  
I'm not sure what the fox population is in Anchorage, but red foxes do inhabit 
the state and naturally cats are common pets.  As you will read though, raptors 
were the big issue for the loons, which they fixed with a screen.

Back in the '80's I regularly surveyed the sewage treatment works at Corowa in 
NSW.  The settling ponds are very small,  some with small islands  close to the 
edge of the pond, and foxes were vixen had her lair in the bank 
of one of the ponds!  However, in my experience these islands did indeed 
provide refuge for birds, breeding and non-breeding.

So whilst I am sure foxes can still predate birds on islands close to shore, I 
agree entirely that islands on dams can make a difference, and simple 
structures such as pontoons etc should not be discounted.



Making a Difference:  Jean TamBy Kristi Schneider, ACF Communications Associate
"We moved to the Connors Lake area in 1988 and got interested in a pair of 
Pacific Loons that nested there. We watched them for a couple years, but they 
weren’t producing. " After she heard a presentation on artificial nests at the 
Anchorage Audubon Loon Festival, Jean and her husband Scott Christy built a 
simple log island for the loons.Each summer, they put the island on the lake 
and pulled it out before winter. Three summers passed, but no loons. Finally, 
in the 4th year, the loons used it and have every year since.  They also 
started having chicks. Jean remembers thinking there was going to be a problem 
with the eagles in the area.
“[Other birds] also nest in the area, and the bald eagles were picking off 
ducks and geese. We knew they were getting loon chicks too,” Jean explained. So 
they added a burlap canopy to the log island. “Now the eagles can’t see the 
nest,” she said.
The birds have been coming back every year to use the nest. Three years ago, 
Jean got the idea of putting up webcams after researching similar nest boxes. 
“I thought, ‘I could do that for the loons. They come every year, but from 
shore, you can’t see what they’re doing,’” Jean said.
Curious, she looked into how to set up webcams, and with grant funding from ACF 
and Anchorage Audubon, Jean leased and set-up a two-camera system in the summer 
of 2003.
“It worked great! The loons mated on the nest, and I had my VCR set up to 
record.” Even more exciting, the loons laid two eggs and fledged two chicks, 
Jean recalled. “At the end of the summer, we captured the female and banded 
Following this bright start, Jean gathered donations and ACF and Audubon 
provided additional funding to purchase a one-camera setup. In 2004, the same 
banded female returned to the nest, possibly with another male. Again, the 
loons laid two eggs and fledged two chicks.Thanks to Jean’s efforts, the 
Connors Lake pair of Pacific Loons became the most successful pair in the 
Anchorage Bowl. In 2004, Jean bought a second camera system and set it up on 
shore, making it possible to see the whole lake and activity going on. “It’s 
nice, now I don’t have to go out and look,” she said with a laugh. “Mosquitoes 
are bad in the summer, so I would have to put my hat with the netting on to go 
out and see what’s happening.”
The project required a hefty investment of time: Jean maintains all the 
computer equipment to run the cameras.“When there were problems while I was 
still working, it’d have to wait ‘til I got home and could reboot the 
computer,” she explained. “That first summer, I was always there. I put in a 
lot of hours, but it was so exciting to be seeing things for the first time.”
With all she put into her loon project, Jean decided she didn’t want it to end 
with her.
“I would like this to continue if I’m gone; to have ACF continue the work and 
promote loon conservation.”
ACF had several estate planning options to help Jean achieve her goals of 
protecting the Connors Lake Loons and promoting loon conservation efforts in 
Alaska. Jean chose to make an endowment to ACF and fund it with a bequest of 
her assets.
“ACF has a good reputation and will be around for awhile. I put my trust in 
them that they will do the right thing for the loons.”
Though the cameras have become much of the work of the project, making this 
important commitment to loon conservation means more to Jean than just ensuring 
they will continue to showcase the loons’ nest activities.
“Loons are a symbol of wilderness to a lot of people,” Jean said. “There are 
fewer and fewer of them in Anchorage. The fact that we can help the ones there, 
it means a lot to me to contribute that way.”

This article is featured in the Winter 2006 issue of the Dispatch. To read more 
Dispatch articles, check out the list of past issues.
To learn more about the Connors Lake loons and see the webcam, visit

Alaska Conservation Foundation 441 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 402 • Anchorage, AK 
99501-2340 Phone 907/276-1917 • Fax 907/274-4145 ACF Privacy Statement webmaster

> Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 13:20:04 +0900> From: > To: 
> ; > Subject: Re: 
> [Birding-Aus] Bird Islands in Dams> > Hmmm,> > Quite a while ago I was 
> interested in feral animal spread and I found > quite a few reports of foxes 
> swimming across rivers or to islands, not > so much in Australia as in other 
> parts of the world. Plus it was > accepted that rivers posed no barrier to 
> fox spread in Australia. At the > time I also came across a few eye witness 
> reports of foxes swimming > across rivers with no obvious factor forcing them 
> to swim.> > Searching the Web, in amongst all the references to Fox TV and 
> the Red > Fox swimming team, there are still quite a few references to foxes 
> being > able to swim> > on the ABC> > 
>> > and> > the Hurstville City 
> Council - note the 7th item in the first list.> > 
>> > 
> as well as occasional reports such as this report from New York called > 
> 'When the Garden Designs the House' which says "Other romantic ideas had > to 
> be scrapped, like keeping free-range chickens on an island in a pond > to 
> provide fresh eggs for breakfast. “We discovered that foxes can > swim,” Mr. 
> Gordon said". (see > 
>> > 
> Plus if you want a few photos try *> > Cheers> > 
> Andrew> > > *>  wrote:> > Hi Andrew> >> > I'm very 
> interested - and hope you can let me know about the basis for > > your cat 
> and fox swimming distances?> >> > The only info I have found on the web 
> relating to such large distances > > is a summary of an article about 
> occurrences of these on WA islands.> >> > On the other hand, bird rafts have 
> been very successful at places like > > Hampstead Heath in London which has 
> many foxes. Common Terns use them > > as well as ducks etc.> >> > I wish I 
> had had time to try them in Australia.> >> > Michael Norris> >> >> 
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