Legacy and Love for Loons: The Conners Lake floating platform in Anchorage, Alaska

View of the platform and a loon summer 2021. Credit: USFWS/Tamara Zeller

Thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers and conservation staff, a pair of Pacific loons nesting at Connors Lake in Anchorage successfully hatched two chicks.  

Normally, a city lake adjacent to a busy dog park wouldn’t attract nesting loons which is why volunteers Jean Tam and her husband Scott Christy built a floating platform for the loons over 10 years ago to preserve the pair’s nest. 

Tam and Christy lived near Connors Lake and each spring, they gathered a crew of volunteers to haul the platform into the lake and would await the loons’ arrival. The couple would then return each fall when the nesting season was over and would return the platform to the shore. The nest is monitored by a live-stream camera that captures the activities of the loons and their young. Tam and Christy used this platform—both literally and figuratively—to build public support for the protection of loons and their habitat. 

“Loons attract public attention because they’re glamorous and to many, they’re considered the voice of the north,” said Tamara Zeller, Outreach Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. “Anchorage is the last large city in North America in which loons nest and produce offspring. This makes the pair at Connors Lake really special, and an important opportunity for outreach.”

Tam and Christy tragically passed away in an airplane accident in 2019. The two of them, as part of their legacy, created the Jean Tam Loon Conservation Endowment Fund, housed at Alaska Conservation Foundation, for the purpose of supporting and promoting this pair of urban loons meanwhile protecting loon habitat across Alaska.  

Due to the pandemic, the nesting platform wasn’t launched in 2020 however, in April 2021, staff from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Conservation Foundation teamed up with volunteers who were friends of Tam and Christy to launch the platform and set up cameras to record the nesting to continue Tam and Christy’s legacy. To their relief, the loons returned for yet another successful nesting season. 

The heartening saga at Connors Lake is a bright note in an otherwise somber story. Loon populations around the world are in decline due to habitat loss, human disturbance, and environmental pollution from heavy metals such as lead and mercury.

”Our hope is that by supporting this nesting pair of loons at Connor Lake we are helping to celebrate the lives of Jean Tam and Scott Christy and their legacy of dedication to loon habitat conservation across Alaska,” said Aaron Poe, Network Program Officer for the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

For more details and to learn more about how you can leave your legacy with Alaska Conservation Foundation visit our website or reach out to our Deputy Director, Mike Coumbe, directly at mcoumbe@alaskaconservation.org or 907-433-8216.