Monday, December 13, 2010
Icing on the Northern CA cake--Arctic Loon
Today was supposed to be much better weatherwise, but at 8 AM it was misty and overcast. Fortunately, it did begin to lighten up, and as the day went on we even saw a bit of sunshine. Wes and I had a big breakfast at Denny's, and then went back to the brown shrike spot to get better views, and maybe a photo.
When we arrived Bob and John were at the favored viewing site along with a few other birders. The bird had already been found near to where we had seen it yesterday. About 10 minutes later I said to Wes, look at that brown bush where it had been seen. Sure enough he found the shrike in his scope. For the next 15 minutes we were able to get short views of it as it would move about.
Wes then walked down to the general area in which it was feeding, but as was the case on previous days, when a person got too close, the shrike would stop moving about. After about 30 minutes of no success in getting a picture, we were going to drive down to the north jetty outside of Eureka when John Spahr called to say that he thought he had an arctic loon at Stone Lagoon. He had gone up there to look for a tufted duck that has been there, but instead saw the loon.
We all raced up the road for 20 miles to the lagoon. We got out and scoped the water, and there it was--an arctic loon in winter plumage. It was quite far out on the lagoon, so we moved around to another location, but could not relocate the bird. Wes did find the tufted duck before John had to leave to catch his plane to San Fran, and then onto Calgary where he will be looking for snowy owl, gray partridge and white-winged crossbill.
Wes and I then turned back south and stopped briefly to photograph the bull elks (top pic). From there we did go out to the north jetty to check on the seabirds. As we were walking out an ancient murrelet was feeding right next to the jetty (middle photo--click on it to enlarge). Out at the end of the jetty we saw many birds including the brown pelican, and double-crested and pelagic cormorants (bottom photo).
We pulled ourselves away to give us some time to stop one more time at the Loleta bottoms to look again for the gyrfalcon and the slaty-backed gull. We found neither, but we ran into several local birders that Wes knew who were out looking for the same 2 birds. We told them about the loon, and they told us an arctic loon had been on that lagoon the past 2 winters.
About 3:30 we started the long drive back to San Francisco. Bob Ake was ahead of us in his own car, and was already at our motel when I arrived about 9. He is flying up to Spokane, WA tomorrow to look for a gray partridge. 15 new birds were seen for the week, and the arctic loon was the 702nd new bird for the year.
I spoke with the woman in North Dakota who has the common and hoary redpolls coming to her feeder, She told me she had seen the birds again today, so tomorrow I will be catching a 6:30 AM flight to Chicago, and then onto Minneapolis. I will drive to Fargo for the nite, and will hopefully be looking at the redpolls early on Tuesday morning. Stay tuned!