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Loon cams at Connors Lake will continue through Anchorage couple’s endowment

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For years an Anchorage couple who lived on Connors Lake documented a pair of Pacific loons that returned to the lake every spring. Jean Tam loved watching the loons that swam right outside her door, but it’s a view she wanted to share, according to longtime friend John McCormick.

“She was absolutely dedicated to loons, that was her hobby, that was everything,” said McCormick, who is also a fellow loon enthusiast.

Jean Tam and her husband Scott prepare a floating nesting island for loons at Connors Lake
Jean Tam and her husband Scott prepare a floating nesting island for loons at Connors Lake(Courtesy AK Conservation Foundation)

In 2003 Tam and her husband, Scott Christy, with help from the Anchorage Audubon Society, built a “nest island” so the pair would have a place to hatch their chicks. Every spring volunteers would launch the island on Connors Lake equipped with a webcam that ran 24/7.

“It streamed, so people worldwide could also see the loons on the lake,” McCormick said. “Which is almost miraculous.”

The years of meticulously recording the behavior of loons and their young chicks might have ended with the couple’s death in a plane crash in 2019, but it turns out they’d left something behind.

“They established the intent to have a fund that would support their project here in Conners Lake,” said Aaron Poe, network program officer with the Alaska Conservation Foundation. “And also, more broadly, would support loon habitat conservation across Alaska.”

Poe said the Jean Tam Loon Conservation Endowment Fund will allow the Conservation Foundation to launch the nesting island every spring, as well as record loon behavior. After skipping a year in 2020 because of COVID-19, volunteers along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Conservation Foundation once again pushed the island out onto the lake. Like clockwork, Poe said, the loons returned.

“We weren’t at all surprised to see them show up in 2021 and literally approach the nest island within hours of it being anchored here at the lake,” he said.

Poe said he hopes the project will remind people that even in an urban environment like Anchorage they have a “role and a connection to loon habitat conservation.”

That’s something John McCormick said residents can thank Tam and her husband for.

“The one thing that they really felt the most about were the loons here on Connors Lake,” he said. “And that will continue.”

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