A Loony Afternoon
- Greetings, SaskBirders;
Yesterday afternoon (wedns., Oct.31), I was able to make a trip out to
Regina Beach, in search of the long-staying Yellow-billed Loon. Looking
west from my first stop, checking the spit at the beach-boat launch-pier, I
thought that I'd spotted it, a large pale-brown loon north and east of the
property known as Flag Point, where it has consistently been seen before. I
drove over so as to be closer, and walked down to the lakeshore trail, but
could not find it. I saw a loon to the west, closer inshore, which turned
out to be an imm. Common Loon. I continued westward, along the old railroad
bed trail, to Kinookimaw, where I saw another, adult winter-plumaged, COLO.
I decided to walk back to Flag Point, and saw another adult COLO, and a 2nd
imm. COLO, this one east of Flag Point. Looking out to the north shore, I
saw another loon, again relatively pale and thick-necked, feeding and diving
repeatedly. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds to the west,
but I eventually got some well-lit views of the bird which confirmed it as
the Yellow-billed; a few times, the sun caught the bird's large, usually
up-turned (between dives) bill, giving off a yellow flash.
I watched the YBLO for about 20 minutes. Just before deciding that it was
time to go, I scanned to the left (west), and spotted a group of five large,
longish-bodied birds that I first took to be scoters, likely White-winged.
The sun was then behind the clouds, so I couldn't make out any markings, but
they didn't really look very duckish. I considered that they might be
mergansers, but higher magnification made it apparent that they weren't
mergs either. Then one bird shook its foot out above the water, a typical
loon gesture (was it waving hello?), and I was sure that they were indeed
loons, which is what they'd really looked like from the beginning. When the
sun came out again, I was able to confirm their identification as Pacific
Loons, with strongly bi-coloured neck and nape, rounded heads, and
medium-sized pointy bills held at the horizontal.
Well, so, ten loons, three species, I was quite pleased. Here in
Saskatchewan, I'd never seen more than two Pacific Loons on one day, and not
together (Bob Luterbach did see two PALOs in this area on Oct.20, and a
single bird on the 21st). I also saw a single Oldsquaw (imm./fem.) flying
east past Flag Point.
On Sunday, Oct.28, Michele Williamson and I went in search of the YBLO, with
no luck, saw only one adult winter Common Loon ( a small bird with a dusky
neck) at the Marina at Regina Beach. I also saw four Oldsquaws, flying
west, as we were walking towards Little Arm. I thought we'd see them again
on the water, but we couldn't find them again. We did see two White-winged
Scoters in Little Arm Bay; loons and scoters are usually seen in the deeper
water of the lake proper, north of where the trestle used to be. We
saw flock of about ten redpolls, all of which that I could i.d. were
Saw only one Common Goldeneye on the 28th, and one Common Merganser; about
15 goldeneyes yesterday, no mergs. Saw no raptors at all, neither hawks or
eagles, on both days.