PARTNERING LOON ORGANIZATIONS
JOCASSEE LOON RESEARCH REVIEWS
After six years of study of the winter behavior of Common Loons on Lake Jocassee - the first ever study of Common Loons in winter in a freshwater habitat - the research expanded last year to the study of loons in spring migration. This will be our second year of studying Common Loons, since they use Lake Jocassee as a significant stop-over lake on their way to their summer breeding lakes. It is not uncommon to witness hundreds of loons depart en masse at first light on spring mornings, and is surely one of the grandest natural history phenomena to observe in this part of the world. The building of large freshwater reservoirs in the southeast started with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s. Lake Jocassee is one of the newest reservoirs in the region, completed in 1973. It is not known exactly when loons started using these reservoirs as stay-over/stop-over locations and there is simply no reference to it in the scientific literature before this century.
Sponsored by Earthwatch for the first three years, the research is now hosted by Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education, in cooperation with Jocassee Lake Tours. By studying Common Loons in this pristine freshwater environment, scientists hope to better understand the factors that influence their health and survival. Dr. Jay Mayer and Dr. Jim Paruk are the lead investigators for this important work.
Lake Jocassee is a pristine mountain lake situated in the heart of the Jocassee Gorges in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina, a region National Geographic declared as one of the 50 last great wild places on earth. Lake Jocassee is a wilderness reservoir, with four mountain rivers and dozens of creeks that empty into it. There are multiple waterfalls that cascade into the lake. Many Bald Eagles populate the lake, and other waterbird species - including hundreds of Horned Grebes - are common on the lake in winter. At approximately 9000 acres and 90 miles of shoreline, it is a relatively small reservoir, making it ideal for the study of loons. In most any weather conditions loons can be located and studied with relative ease. The approachability of the loons on Lake Jocassee is always a surprise to new volunteers and researchers. It is not unusual for loons to be calmly going about their daily business within a boat length or two of the observers. Most all the research is conducted from the boats. During the two week period scheduled for the 2023 session, expect to witness molting, preening and bathing behaviors, group foraging - including the ‘herding’ of schools of small forage fish - and departure behaviors as loons prepare for and begin to leave the lake in March. The results of the research will be used to raise awareness about the importance of reservoirs as habitat for loons and other waterbirds, and how to best monitor and manage them.
Daily Life in the Field
We are truly looking forward to having you join us for this unique migratory experience, as witnessing the departure of hundreds of loons from Lake Jocassee on some mornings is surely one of the most unrecognized natural wonders of the Blue Ridge Escarpment region. Field days for this experience will be distinctly different than the Winter Research days. For example, we will depart the dock between 6 and 6:20am (approximately one hour before local sunrise) to travel across the lake and position ourselves to watch loons departing from the lake (which occurs between approximately 30 minutes before sunrise and 9am). However, weather conditions can of course affect the daily timing. After most loons have left, we'll spend another hour or so assessing the activity of the remaining loons, then head in for a two hour break/siesta/lunch. We'll return to the lake around noon to watch for incoming loons and/or do a loon count at various locations on the lake; this will last approximately 3-4 hours. During most evenings, we'll head back to the field station for dinner, an informal talk by Dr. Paruk, and time to relax; however, we will try to capture and band loons during the night at least once each week, depending on suitable weather conditions.
SESSION ONE, March 26-April 1, 2023
$1550 per session. This includes lodging and all meals. $500 deposit required.
COST FOR LOCAL COMMUTERS:
$975 per session. $500 deposit required
There are only 12 spots per session available for volunteers, so early registration is highly recommended. Please call (864) 280-5501 or Book Online to reserve your spot.
Cancellations up to 30 days in advance will be fully refunded. All reservations are final within the last 30 days.
Volunteers will be staying together in 2 or 3 bedroom villas at Devils Fork State Park. These clean and comfortable villas are fully furnished and include linens, all kitchen appliances, basic cooking and eating utensils, heat, air conditioning, fireplace, microwave, satellite television, complimentary wi-fi, automatic coffee maker, screened porch, charcoal grill and picnic table.
The living circumstance is communal, and all meals are shared. Volunteers are expected to help with basic housekeeping. Dinner will be prepared for you. Breakfast and lunch items will be available for do - it - yourself preparation.
The Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP) is the point of arrival and departure for those arriving by plane. All transportation to and from GSP is provided at no extra cost. Explore GSP
Meet the Investigators and Guides