Friday, October 30, 2009

Pacific Loon and Feeder Visitors

I finally got my act together and signed up for the Genesee Birds List, which allows birders in the area to communicate with one another about rare sightings and various other hot topics. On the 25th the Genesee Birds List update in my email inbox informed me that there was a Pacific Loon at Hamlin Beach State Park. Unfortunately, I discovered this around 3 or 4 pm, but I immediately got my stuff in the car and headed out anyway.

I scanned the water near lots 3 and 4, where the loon had been reported to be earlier in the day. Now, I have a camera (18x optical zoom + 1.7x more zoom with my lens, so 30.6 x optical zoom overall?) and hand-me-down binoculars (10 x 25)--no scope. Trying to get a look at the loon that day, I made up my mind--definitely asking for a scope for Christmas this year. I had also been considering asking for snowshoes, but I think I'll get a lot more use out of a scope. Being a college student, I won't be able to get anything super-fancy. Some people have told me that if a scope is less than $1,000, don't even bother with it. In my case, I'm going to dismiss that advice.

Given my equipment, I didn't have much luck, but I did see another birder on the beach--with a scope--scanning the water. I approached him and asked if he was looking for the Pacific Loon. he was, and said that I couldn't be having much luck looking for it with a pair of binoculars. I wasn't, we chatted for a minute, I wished him luck, and started heading back towards my car. I hadn't gone very far when I heard some shouting, and turned around to see my fellow birder waving his arms at me and yelling "I've got it!"

I awkwardly fast-walked/ran back, holding my camera in one hand and my binoculars in the other so they wouldn't bounce all around. I got a peek through the scope at the bird, and it's now checked off my list. Always grateful to fellow birders who let me steal a peek through their scopes!!

I haven't heard any more complaints from my roommate about the birds waking her up in the morning, but she did say that in the springtime the noise can get "pretty intense." So, hopefully, I can keep my feeders up for the Winter. In the Spring I'll be getting plenty of birding and banding in, so I won't need the feeders so much to get my daily bird quota :-P

Yesterday there were 6 MODOs in the backyard (Mourning Doves). Also had a brief visit from a goldfinch. A female Downy is making regular visits, and a male Hairy even stopped by a few days ago! Below are pictures to compare the Downy woodpecker with the Hairy woodpecker. There are 3 characteristics that are generally used to distinguish the 2 species--overall size, bill length, and the presence of 2 black bars on the outer rectrices. (Alright, I guess it's really 4 characteristics: voice is also helpful in identification of these birds, but I'm still struggling with that, they sound almost exactly the same to me.) The black suet feeder in both pictures is the same, so the pictures make for good size comparison. The HAWO is pictured first, and the second, lower image is of the DOWO. The bars on the rectrices of the Downy aren't very clear from the picture, I'll try to get a better shot of them in the next few days.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

.....and Happy Halloween!


  1. Wow, Pacific Loon is quite a species to see along the Atlantic.
    About the scope: get the best you can afford and enjoy. The top-notch scopes have simply become too expensive, but any scope is better than no scope at all.
    During the family holiday at the German Baltic coast just last week, I spotted a strange large loon from the jetty of Binz, a nice coastal town on the island of RĂ¼gen. I had neither binoculars nor telescope with me, so I used one of the mounted "public" coin scopes that can be found along the town's jetty. It certainly was no Swarovski scope, but it was still good enough to allow for an identification: the bird was a Common Loon, a very scarce bird along the German Baltic coast that's not even seen annually from the coast (some are seen at offshore surveys each year).
    So there you go: better than no scope at all and in that case, it only cost me a 1-Euro coin...

  2. Great..glad u were able to see the Loon..I have read about it in several blogs from the area...
    and also happy your roommate is not complaining about the bird songs in the morning!