Sunday, April 3, 2011

Loon! And other first-of-the-year sightings

We've been checking the Superior Drive pond just about every day for new arrivals, and this afternoon we were rewarded by the majestic sight of a common loon (not so common here -- typically seen only briefly, in migration). I noted a loon at this location on April 5, 2008, and I know that they've been seen at around this time at the same pond in other recent springs. I also noted seeing one at Lake Byllesby last year on April 18.


It is hard for me to tear my eyes away from this magnificent bird -- so impressively large and low in the water, its head so absolutely black without any shine, its bill so powerful, its black-and-white markings so striking, including vertical stripes around the neck and the elaborate checks-and-spots pattern of its wings.


The eyes are a dark red, though they do not show up well in these photos.


The loon is a diving, fish-eating bird. It was challenging to get in the scope for these photos, because it tended not to stay above water for more than 10 or so seconds at a time. I'd just get everything lined up right and it would jackknife down again and reappear some seconds later many yards away.


Other newcomers at the pond today were several pied-billed grebes, the chicken-beaked diving bird that looks absolutely tiny in comparison to any other bird on the pond.


We also went to Lake Byllesby this morning. The water is far too high to be welcoming to shorebirds yet, but we saw a raft of many dozens, probably hundreds, of ducks -- mostly northern shovelers mixed with some mallards, first-of-the-season green-winged teals, and American wigeons. We also got a good look at our first-of-the-year American white pelicans and, on the way back, three great egrets and a belted kingfisher. Almost every bird mentioned here was a life bird for my son, so he was thrilled. It was a very good day of early spring birding!

10 comments:

loveable_homebody said...

A good day of birding indeed! From your writing, it seems you were as relaxed and content as these birds appear to be. I'm glad you had fun!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Yay! They're coming!

Dan Tallman said...

Where is Superior Lake drive?

John said...

Nice pictures of the loon. I have always liked the way they look - something about their black and white plumage is just so vivid.

Penelope said...

Dan-Take Maple St. south of Jefferson Pkwy and turn left on Superior Dr. Pond is accessed via a short pathway on the right about two blocks in. It's a deep, spring-fed pond.

Penelope said...

@loveable_homebody - Thanks! It was indeed enjoyable, and I was enjoying my son's pleasure at so many "firsts" today as well.
@Lynne - indeed!

dAwN said...

A Great Day of birding! I love seeing Loons too..such a cool big bird.

zoologirl said...

Loons! I miss them so much! Last summer I could hear them almost every night from my apartment. Not sure if I'll see them much this summer since I've moved. Can't wait to hear or see one though! Great photos!

Jim H. said...

Very nice photos and an excellent description of the loon. I was talking about retirement today with a co-worker and she said she hoped I wouldn't get into birding when I retire. What an odd thing to say!

Penelope said...

Jim- Nice to hear from you! And indeed, what a thing to say. I would reply, "I hope I DO!"