Yellow-billed Loon was just added to the Eight Years to 800!? list … and I didn’t even leave the house!
In Alaska, a guide pointed out a Yellow-billed Loon to us during a boat trip at the Homer shorebird festival. I couldn’t confirm his identification and decided not to include the species on my list. I just couldn’t be sure.
The other day, I was looking through the pictures from the trip and I decided to have a closer look at the pictures I had taken of the suspect loon. I had just read the new book “Birding By Impression” by Karlson and Rosselet and I wanted to try out their information on the loon.
Sure enough, when I had studied the pictures with the “new” information, I could clearly see the double-peaked head profile of the suspect bird that indicates it was Yellow-billed and not Common Loon. The bill color was pale gray, not the yellow-ish I had expected to see, but the other features were clearly much more like Yellow-billed than Common. It is a good example of looking for one field mark and not seeing the whole bird!
Unfortunately, I can’t readily show you the picture to see your opinion. I had just bought a new computer and spent days sorting and cataloging most of my pictures onto it. I had not got around to backing up everything. Then, wham! … my first ever problem with a new computer. It crashed and I lost the pictures. They are still around somewhere in the hundreds of gigabytes of data on my old computer, but I don’t have the energy to go look for them again!
Besides, the guide said it was a new species for me all along!
We have been enjoying our relatively sedentary stay in North Carolina. Although we have taken a couple of short trips to visit family, we have not done any birding trips since we returned from Alaska.
Things have been rather slow, as far as birding goes, in the areas that are readily accessible to us from our place in southwestern NC. That seems to be the norm for our area. We have seen several “needed” birds being reported down in Florida, and even one in Georgia, but none have been close enough, or regular enough, to justify a special trip to chase them.
Far to our west, and definitely out of range, there have been a host of great bird sightings. Texas had Yellow-green Vireo, Northern Jacana, and Collared Forest-Falcon (!). Arizona continued to have reports of Buff-collared Nightjar, Slate-throated Redstart, and Tufted Flycatcher. California had Wedge-tailed and Flesh-footed Shearwater and various other rarities were seen there and farther north along the Pacific Coast.
Then there was Alaska. As the fall season progressed a large number of Asian vagrants were reported: buntings, flycatchers, accentors, snipe, seabirds, etc., etc. It certainly made me wish that we had stayed in Alaska for four months instead of two! It has been hard to watch all of that activity in other states and have nothing new to show for our time here!
The leaves are turning and starting to fall and temperatures are dipping. Soon it will be winter and we will be heading south again in search of warmer climates and rarer birds. I plan to update our site once or twice a month; more frequently if we are having success finding rare birds.