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Specific Pacific

November 24, 2008
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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.

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8 Comments
  1. Greg permalink
    November 24, 2008 10:22 am

    Nice! Congratulations on the lifer! I have a new beer or two to celebrate it! See you Wednesday!

  2. Jochen permalink
    November 24, 2008 10:28 am

    It would be a great bird, would be a lifer, yet is as far as can be from a piece of cake on my side of the Atlantic.

    Congrats!!

  3. Patrick Belardo permalink
    November 24, 2008 12:39 pm

    Nice! Congrats!

  4. November 24, 2008 3:32 pm

    Thanks guys. Most Pac Loons in NC are found offshore and therefore very difficult to refind. This is the first one in recent memory that’s been chaseable. It’s a sharp bird.

  5. corey permalink
    November 24, 2008 9:41 pm

    Sweet bird for anywhere in the east…one of these days I’ll chase one that shows up in New York.

    In the meantime, I’ll live vicariously through you!

  6. November 25, 2008 11:41 pm

    N8,

    Not related to your PALO sighting, but I read your listserve post regarding the SC Bronzed Cowbird and was curious as to if you might be expanding on that in a blog post?

  7. November 26, 2008 7:58 am

    @ab- That’s actually a different Nate, a birder in South Carolina. It’s a great bird, but not mine.

  8. November 26, 2008 5:31 pm

    Sorry. Not sure why I thought you two were the same person! Thanks for setting me straight.

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