Good birds have a way of making that happen.
True to its name, the Pacific Loon shouldn't really be here in Michigan. A breeder along the northern reaches of the continent (Alaska and northwest Canada), they usually disperse south along the west coast for the winter. Now and then, they come inland; even to the Great Lakes believe it or not.
So yesterday, a birder found one in Monroe County. Sterling State Park to be exact. 37 times this bird has been recorded in Michigan. With the Park only twenty minutes down the road, I figured it was worth a quick trip.
Upon arriving at the northwest corner of the south lagoon, I found Cathy Carroll sitting there. Pulling up a rock at the water, we were joined moments later by Jim Fowler. In front of us sat the loon.
Over the next 30 minutes or so, the clock-wise feeding circle took it in and out of camera range. As it tooled around and dove, we had a great chance to check out the relevant field marks. Subtle bill structure (compared to other loons), a nice, smooth, rounded head, grayish tones on the back of the neck and a solid white throat with a "chinstrap". The scaling on the back suggests an immature bird (born this year).
At times, it was not 35 yards out. With a 400mm lens, I managed a fair shot. You can even see the water droplets on the bill and head.
This final picture shows just how different, and simultaneously similar, a Pacific Loon and a Common Loon can appear. The Common, on the right, has a larger noggin with a forehead lump, and a heavier bill. How nice it was for the birds to cooperate.
So there you have it. My third Pacific Loon for Michigan and the first for Monroe County. I now have 211 species for that county. My Michigan 2011 list now stands at a pitiful 195 species.