Thursday, November 26, 2015
Huron revisited, with rare birds
Some of the photos in this post are certainly not award winners. They are purely documentary, of rarities that did not cooperate with the photographer. While conducting lake watches and tallying the birds that pass by on Lake Erie is fun, it often does not produce great photo ops, at least of the more unusual stuff. Many of the birds are simply too far out for that.
I spent most of my time on this foray at the base of the white tower, which offers a great perspective on the lake, and the river. Many birds fly by fairly closely at this point, and the abundant fishery spawned by the interface of river and lake lures scads of piscivorous birds into close proximity. Once ensconced at the tower's base, it's hard to leave, at least on an active day. And this day saw lots of action.
Two, the prospect of rarities makes Huron a constant lure, especially in November and December. Ohio's first records of Pacific Loon, Spotted Redshank, and Arctic Tern came from here. I was in on the loon, back on December 7, 1985. While the possibility of mega-rarities always exists, lesser rarities are almost to be expected here, which always spices up a trip.
The photo is not great, but it is identifiable. This species is noticeably smaller and trimmer than the Common Loon, which was quite evident when the two were in close proximity. It also has a much more rounded head, unlike the big blockhead look of a Common Loon. The bill is thinner and less massive, and the neck is much more clearly patterned in a tri-tone effect: white throat, dark sides, and lighter brownish-gray on the nape. This bird is a juvenile, as evidenced by the white checkerboarding on the back.
Since the inaugural 1985 Huron Pacific Loon, there have been at least a half-dozen other indisputable records, probably more. Hot on the heels of this bird were two others found in the Cleveland area. It may be that 1) there are more Pacific Loons these days, leading to more vagrants; 2) they have altered their migratory pattern somewhat, or 3) birders are becoming more adept at finding and recognizing them. I vote for #3.
Jaegers are the Kings of Kleptoparasitism. They make much of their living by hounding gulls and terns in spectacular aerial chases, eventually forcing the victim to disgorge its fishy catch. Watching one in the act of mugging some hard-working fish-catcher is truly impressive, and that's what I was hoping for this day. But the jaegers that we saw apparently had business elsewhere and didn't linger.