I’ve had some bad luck chasing rare birds this fall. Either the birds have split or they were present but I was unfortunate enough to miss them, or, and this is my best guess, the bird gods are angry at me for some as yet unknown slight. This came to a head when a Pacific Loon was reported at a lake in Greensboro, a short distance away, on Monday. It takes a special kind of slight against the bird gods for them to drop a vagrant in your backyard at the beginning of the workweek. The earliest I would be able to get to it would be Sunday.
Fortunately for me, the fact that it was in Greensboro meant that there was a community of birders that would check on it daily, so that was good. Also, being a loon rather than a perching bird of some sort, the odds that it would stick were pretty good. When it was re-found on Saturday, I felt pretty good that I was going to get the bird. So on Sunday morning I headed out to Greensboro to give it a shot.
I needn’t have worried. The bird was as easy as a vagrant had any right to be. I pulled up to one of the bridges that crosses Lake Townsend to see three other birders set on the side of the road, scopes deployed, checking out what even I could see from my car was a good sized bird out on the middle of the lake. So I pulled over, walked down and set up my scope beside them and looked out to find a great Pacific Loon alternately preening and cruising back and forth. I tried to take some pictures below. They’re identifiable, but no great shakes.
I could see the distinguishing field marks, the round gray head, the sharp contrasting border on the neck. The bird appeared to be a juvenile by the checkerboard pattern on the back, which would probably be the more likely to get lost so far across the country. You can see it below in a photo I tried to take through 60x.
I stuck around watching the bird for about a half hour waiting for it to do something, but it was content just to swim back and forth with a small group of Pied-billed Grebes without coming any closer to the road. Oh well, it was a great bird, a lifer, and a piece of cake besides.
Update: Better pics here, if interested.