Sunday 18 May 2014

Another Mega in the Bag!

As if this spring weren't exciting enough! Team "NL eBird" scoured the southern shore of the avalon peninsula today and found Newfoundlands third ever Pacific Loon!

Initial looks were dismal at best due to distance - over 1km! But thankfully the sea was calm and we were all able to see the bird and keep track of where it was going. On more than a couple occasions I've seen distant loons and thought something looked odd about it. But impatience or subsequent better looks kept me moving on. Today things lined up. We waited, and we were rewarded.

What kept me looking back at this loon was the flash of gray I was getting from the top of its head and nape whenever it turned away from me, the more sloped head shape, and the small bill caught my attention as well. But when you're looking at a bird over the ocean from 1+km you can convince yourself of many things so I wasn't getting excited at that point. I was on the fence about continuing on to the next location or coercing my fellow birders to stick back and watch the bird in hopes of turning it into what I wanted it to be. To try and keep everyones interest (mine as well!) I suggested we drive to the other side of the river and see if we could get a better look.

Sure enough, we re-found it right away and things were looking more interesting!
That's when the stars aligned and the loon started swimming towards us!

Eventually it swam up to a Common Loon and the overall size difference was apparent along with the short and thin bill. The head shape was definitely not right for Common Loon and the gray head and nape stood out so much from the nearby Common Loons!

A very faint chin strap seemed to be visible at times, but again I felt as though I was convincing myself of this simply because that's what I wanted to see.

Note the relatively smooth forehead compared to the blocky forehead of the Common Loon (in front):

This was one of those very satisfying finds. It wasn't initially exciting and my heart rate never raced. But with diligence and team work the 4 of us were patient and worked out what we were looking at despite very little to no experience with Arctic vs Pacific Loon!

Video footage (click on the youtube icon in the bottom right and then make sure to put it in high definition!)

After studying the loon for over an hour and getting the above photos and videos we bee-lined it to Trepassey to take advantage of Cliff's place once again. This time it wasn't for a feast of jiggs dinner, I was eager to get any photo online and get the word out.
Cell phone reception is spotty at best on the southern shore of Newfoundland!!

We did make one quick stop to enjoy relatively up close looks at 3 young caribou: 

Lots of year birds today including several Blackpoll Warblers:

And another Newfoundland lifer for me, an Eastern Kingbird (and Lancy's 200th species for the island!!!):