June 23 – Loon-land Lather

The excitement on June 23rd was all about loons.

But first I went to calm, birdy Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, where I walked rather rapidly to escape mosquitos, periodically making quick stops to photograph flowers, and of course, watch birds.

There were a few pairs of Sandhill Cranes out on the flats, mostly quiet, but making much noise every now and then as the lifted off to go to another place across the flats.

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I also photographed one of the noisy Alder Flycatchers, a Yellow Warbler and one of the Lincoln’s Sparrows that I saw at the Natural Area.

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That was going to be it for my morning birding, but the lure of the continuing Red-throated Loon at Lake Hood pulled me over there. The loon was at one of its favorite spots along Floatplane Drive. As usual, the loon came over to investigate me and then calmly drifted off.

Thinking that was the end of it I drove along the road, but then noticed two loons flying in and landing south of where I was. I couldn’t be sure which loon species they were, so I drove in that direction, pulled over and found out that there were two more Red-throated Loons, not far from where I had seen the solo loon (the regular bird, I assumed). Since when I began observing the solo bird a couple of summers ago, I had not before seen more than one Red-throated Loon in the same area-probably with good reason. The two birds of the pair were now talking to each other loudly, flying short distances and landing again. I couldn’t see the other one and was wondering whether they all were going to interact.

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They did. Suddenly, all three birds were together, heads held high, swimming rapidly and making quite a racket, including sounds I had not heard before from the regular loon.

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The pair flew off after a couple of exciting minutes, as did the solo bird. It remains to be seen whether the lake will go back to having one loon, two loons, three loons or none. I will of course be back.

Although I did not do much other birding there, I did notice that there were other birds around the lake, including at least five Red-necked Phalaropes and a similar number of Red-necked Grebes, and lots of littler birds that I did not photograph (including Tree and Bank Swallows, Savannah Sparrows, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs). It’s amazing how birdy these lakes can be in spite of the heavy plane, car and jogger traffic, especially on a Saturday morning.

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