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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Early morning red eye

We stopped by Spud Point Marina this morning to see the tall ships (Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain) arriving in Bodega Harbor.  While walking back along the docks, Eric noticed a not-so-common-looking Common Loon (Gavia immer).  During the winter, Common Loons are gray and white, but this individual is in full breeding plumage.

Notice the jet black head and bill, red eye, vertical white stripes on the neck, green iridescence (especially on the lower neck, see below), distinctive white markings on the scapulars and wing coverts, short tail, and legs set very far back on the body (next photo).

Loons are excellent swimmers, using their broad webbed feet to propel them under water.  We had to wait for the loon to resurface between dives.  Average dive times for Common Loons are 30-40 seconds, and they have the ability to stay down much longer.

I guess the expression is, "like water off a duck's back", but it could be a loon's back, too!

When reviewing the photos and admiring the loon's eye, I was wondering about the reflection within the eye.

If you look closely, you can see two vertical shapes above the pupil.  I'm pretty sure that's me and Eric (standing on the dock)!

After wintering on the coast, Common Loons move to northern lakes to breed.  They breed primarily in Canada and Alaska; the southernmost nesting site on the West Coast is in Washington.  Large migratory movements are known to occur in early-mid April. 


Philip said...

Love these photos!

Anonymous said...

Now that's a little premature...It's like putting on your best clothes to drive across country to attend your own wedding.

Yep. Just like that.


Megan said...

Gorgeous bird! I know the tall ships don't technically count as natural history of bodega, but any chance of seeing pics of them? :)

Hollis said...

On Apr 4, we watched a loon all dressed up trying to get airborne. He would run about 20 or 30 feet & then collapse back into the harbor waters. After a moment's rest he would try again but with the same result. We first noticed him while standing on the Westside boat dock - then saw several more attempts from the Spud Point pier as he made his way north. They need a long runway & he had the room but just couldn't get far enough off the surface of the water

It's going to be a long slow journey to Washington or Alaska...