Red-throated Loon

P1040525 (Small)With an hour to kill in the morning while waiting for the crane to arrive for the flare station demolition, I ambled southward along the North Basin shore, and soon came on a couple of Black Oystercatchers, shortly joined by a third, and then a fourth and fifth.  While I was photographing and filming these birds, another bird came paddling along and landed on the green rocks below the black birds.  This was a new bird to me.  It paddled and had the body of a duck, but with a sharp, pointed beak, not the flat spoonlike proboscis of ducks. I didn’t know what it was until I got home and looked it up on Merlin BirdId and other bird sites.  It’s a Red-throated Loon, gavia stellata, in adult breeding plumage.  Cornell’s bird lab says it’s unique among loons in many ways: it can take off from land or water without a lot of paddling, it flies long distances from its nest to feed its young, and it doesn’t carry its young on its back, as other loons do.  Most noteworthy in this case is that its usual breeding environment is way north in places like Alaska and northern Canada.  This individual is an outlier.  I’m not sure it’s ever been seen here before.  Photographer George A. Suennen has an encyclopedic gallery of local birds at http://birds.avianist.com/2015 and the Red-throated Loon is not part of it.

 

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