• Pacific Loon

    Common NamePacific Loon
    Scientific NameGavia Pacifica
    Type of ReportRare Species
    Date of Observation01/03/2021
    Number Observed1
    Reporting Observer's NameJim Mead
    Mailing Address798 Metcalf Drive
    Williston, VT 05495
    United States
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    EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
    Date Completed03/06/2021
    Names & Emails of Other Contributing Observers

    Clem Nilan- , Ken Cox-

    Latitude of Observation44.0345
    Longitude of Observation-73.4218
    Place NameChamplain Bridge/Chimney Point
    TownshipAddison
    CountyAddison
    Vermont eBird Checklist URLebird.org
    Time of Day08:19 AM
    Length of Time Observed30-40 minutes
    Maximum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)1500
    Minimum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)1400
    Noteworthy Weather Conditions

    30º F, SE wind at 5-7 mph with 100% cloudy skies.

    Optical Equipment Used for Observation

    Kowa TSN-884 Promiser 20-60 power lens.

    Observer’s Previous Acquaintance With This or Similar Species

    The only other time that I have seen a Pacific Loon on the water was when I found & photographed one from Whiskey Bay in Charlotte, VT on 10/23/2013. That one was an adult in alternate plumage. I have also seen several Pacific Loons in flight from Thompson's Point in Charlotte, over the years. Most of those were ID'd by Ted Murin.

    I certify that that attachments included with this report were captured during this observation event​​.
    Description of Habitat

    Lake Champlain in a location that is a common place on the lake for loons to feed.

    Behaviors Observed

    The bird was feeding pretty much the entire time during the observations.

    Description of Vocalizations

    No vocalizations during observations.

    Verbal Narrative & Description of Observation

    Seen at 8:19 a.m. Likely an adult in basic plumage showing less white on fore neck than the dark on hind neck. Fairly straight line separating the two colors along the sides of the neck. Smallish looking bill compared to a Common Loon. A couple of times I saw a faint chin strap. At one point it went past a Great Black-backed Gull and both birds were of similar size. GBBG (3.6 lbs.), PALO (3.7 lbs.) Arctic Loon (5.8 lbs.) was ruled out because we saw no white area on the sides or flanks above the waterline. Additionally it would have been noticeably significantly larger than the Red-throated Loon (3.1 lbs.).(JM)

    The Pacific Loon (accompanied by a Red-throated Loon) was seen by Jim Mead, Clem Nilan, and Ken Cox while standing on the Chaplain Bridge, and then from DAR SP, Owl's Head, and Tri-Town Water District Plant during the period from 8:17am to 10:58am.

    We saw a concrete structure (building) at the water's edge, on the New York side of the lake which we were using as a landmark to locate the 2 loons from the bridge. They were working their way north, so to hopefully get a better look at both loons we went to DAR SP. From there we located the concrete structure and did find both loons again. That time we had a much better look at the Red-throated Loon and was able to confirm it as such. The 2 loons kept going north so we headed to Owls Head Bay (where Clem and Jim have permission from one of the camp owners to show up there). We once again located the concrete structure. Then we relocated the same 2 loons. At that time they were a bit north of the concrete structure and were in front of a blue camp which had a deck with red lattice. They kept going north so we headed to Tri-town. From there we relocated the blue camp with the red lattice and found the 2 loons again, north of that camp. From there, we had our best look at the Pacific Loon's chin strap because it performed a standing wing flap while facing us.

    Given the rarity of seeing both a Pacific Loon AND a Red-throated Loon on Lake Champlain, together, with the proof of refinding the same landmarks on the NY side of the lake, it was clear to us that those 2 loons were the same ones that we saw at all 4 stops. It was quite fortunate for us that they remained together during all 4 observations. The actual distance they traveled in the water while we traveled by road was probably not that great compared to how far we had traveled.(JM)

    DAR State Park sighting from 9:18 a.m. to 9:39 a.m.

    Same bird that we had basically just seen from the Champlain Bridge a bit earlier.(JM)

    The Pacific Loon (accompanied by a Red-throated Loon) was seen by Jim Mead, Clem Nilan, and Ken Cox while standing on the Chaplain Bridge, and then from DAR SP, Owl's Head, and Tri-Town Water District Plant during the period from 8:17am to 10:58am.

    We saw a concrete structure (building) at the water's edge, on the New York side of the lake which we were using as a landmark to locate the 2 loons from the bridge. They were working their way north, so to hopefully get a better look at both loons we went to DAR SP. From there we located the concrete structure and did find both loons again. That time we had a much better look at the Red-throated Loon and was able to confirm it as such. The 2 loons kept going north so we headed to Owls Head Bay (where Clem and Jim have permission from one of the camp owners to show up there). We once again located the concrete structure. Then we relocated the same 2 loons. At that time they were a bit north of the concrete structure and were in front of a blue camp which had a deck with red lattice. They kept going north so we headed to Tri-town. From there we relocated the blue camp with the red lattice and found the 2 loons again, north of that camp. From there, we had our best look at the Pacific Loon's chin strap because it performed a standing wing flap while facing us.

    Given the rarity of seeing both a Pacific Loon AND a Red-throated Loon on Lake Champlain, together, with the proof of refinding the same landmarks on the NY side of the lake, it was clear to us that those 2 loons were the same ones that we saw at all 4 stops. It was quite fortunate for us that they remained together during all 4 observations. The actual distance they traveled in the water while we traveled by road was probably not that great compared to how far we had traveled.(JM)

    Owls Head Bay sighting from 10:00 a.m. to 10:18 a.m.

    Same bird that we had seen from the Champlain Bridge and D.A.R. State Park earlier this morning.(JM)

    The Pacific Loon (accompanied by a Red-throated Loon) was seen by Jim Mead, Clem Nilan, and Ken Cox while standing on the Chaplain Bridge, and then from DAR SP, Owl's Head, and Tri-Town Water District Plant during the period from 8:17am to 10:58am.

    We saw a concrete structure (building) at the water's edge, on the New York side of the lake which we were using as a landmark to locate the 2 loons from the bridge. They were working their way north, so to hopefully get a better look at both loons we went to DAR SP. From there we located the concrete structure and did find both loons again. That time we had a much better look at the Red-throated Loon and was able to confirm it as such. The 2 loons kept going north so we headed to Owls Head Bay (where Clem and Jim have permission from one of the camp owners to show up there). We once again located the concrete structure. Then we relocated the same 2 loons. At that time they were a bit north of the concrete structure and were in front of a blue camp which had a deck with red lattice. They kept going north so we headed to Tri-town. From there we relocated the blue camp with the red lattice and found the 2 loons again, north of that camp. From there, we had our best look at the Pacific Loon's chin strap because it performed a standing wing flap while facing us.

    Given the rarity of seeing both a Pacific Loon AND a Red-throated Loon on Lake Champlain, together, with the proof of refinding the same landmarks on the NY side of the lake, it was clear to us that those 2 loons were the same ones that we saw at all 4 stops. It was quite fortunate for us that they remained together during all 4 observations. The actual distance they traveled in the water while we traveled by road was probably not that great compared to how far we had traveled.(JM)

    Tri-Town Water District Plant/Oven Bay sighting from 10:34 a.m. to 10:58 a.m.

    Likely an adult in basic plumage showing less white on fore neck than the dark on hind neck. Fairly straight line separating the two along the sides of the neck. We saw this bird many times in the same scope view with the Red-throated Loon (3.1 lbs.) and they were of similar size but the Pacific Loon (3.7 lbs.) appeared to have a somewhat bulkier neck. At one point the Pacific Loon did a standing flap and a slight chin strap was discernible. Arctic Loon (5.8 lbs.) was ruled out because we saw no white area on the sides or flanks above the waterline. Additionally it would have been noticeably significantly larger than the Red-throated Loon.(JM)

    The Pacific Loon (accompanied by a Red-throated Loon) was seen by Jim Mead, Clem Nilan, and Ken Cox while standing on the Chaplain Bridge, and then from DAR SP, Owl's Head, and Tri-Town Water District Plant during the period from 8:17am to 10:58am.

    We saw a concrete structure (building) at the water's edge, on the New York side of the lake which we were using as a landmark to locate the 2 loons from the bridge. They were working their way north, so to hopefully get a better look at both loons we went to DAR SP. From there we located the concrete structure and did find both loons again. That time we had a much better look at the Red-throated Loon and was able to confirm it as such. The 2 loons kept going north so we headed to Owls Head Bay (where Clem and Jim have permission from one of the camp owners to show up there). We once again located the concrete structure. Then we relocated the same 2 loons. At that time they were a bit north of the concrete structure and were in front of a blue camp which had a deck with red lattice. They kept going north so we headed to Tri-town. From there we relocated the blue camp with the red lattice and found the 2 loons again, north of that camp. From there, we had our best look at the Pacific Loon's chin strap because it performed a standing wing flap while facing us.

    Given the rarity of seeing both a Pacific Loon AND a Red-throated Loon on Lake Champlain, together, with the proof of refinding the same landmarks on the NY side of the lake, it was clear to us that those 2 loons were the same ones that we saw at all 4 stops. It was quite fortunate for us that they remained together during all 4 observations. The actual distance they traveled in the water while we traveled by road was probably not that great compared to how far we had traveled.(JM)

    Relative Size & Shape

    About the same size (slightly larger) as the Red-throated Loon that it was accompanied by. The Pacific Loon differences were 1) A slightly stockier looking head & neck. 2) A relatively parallel bill to the water surface compared to the upturned bill of the RTLO. 3) A more rounded head shape. 4) More dark coloration wrapping around the neck from the hind-neck to the sides than the white coloration wrapping around the neck from the fore-neck to the sides. The opposite was true for the RTLO.

    Head

    Rounded dark colored head that at times seemed to have no discernible slope at the forehead and at other times seems to have a noticeable slope there. The sides of the face were white up to the eye and dark down to the eye. The eye was dark. The throat was white except for a slight chin strap that was best seen while the bird performed a standing wing flap while facing toward us. The nape was very dark.

    Feet & Bill

    Feet were not seen. The bill appeared to be dark on the top and light colored below. It also had the shape of a dagger bill which was held parallel to the water surface.

    Upper Back

    The upper back was very dark with no discernible markings. If it did have any markings, it was too distant to make them out.

    Lower Back & Rump

    Same as above.

    Wings

    I did see the underside of the wings once when it did a standing wing flap while facing us. Mostly white fore-wing & a darkish hind-wing.

    Breast, Belly, Flanks, Under Tail Coverts

    The breast, belly and flanks were white. Under tail coverts not seen.

    Tail

    Not really discernible..

    IMPORTANT: What similar species were eliminated when making the identification and how was this bird different?

    It was easy to separate this Pacific Loon from the RTLO that it was with, as described in this report in the relative size & shape section. It was also easy to separate it from a couple of Common Loons that were nearby due to the conspicuous size difference. The only other loon that needed to be ruled out was Arctic Loon. I/we did that by size- ARLO- 5.7 lbs., PALO- 3.7 lbs., RTLO- 3.1 lbs. Since it was with a Red-throated Loon and was only slightly larger we could confidently rule out ARLO because it would have been almost twice as big as a RTLO. The other more important way that I/we separated it from ARLO was that it didn't show any white area along the mid to rear flanks that was above the water line. An ARLO would show this in all plumages.

    Other Notes & Comments

    All 3 observers also saw this bird at 3 other locations. DAR State Park- checklist S78607564, Owls Head Bay- checklist S78606767 & Tri-Town Water District Plant/Oven Bay- checklist S78572967.

    This report was written from notes taken:Immediately After

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