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!