Birding has been quite successful for me lately, as you will read in this post. Although there are a few common species I do not have on my year list including both scaups, Brown Creeper, and Winter Wren, to name a few, I feel good with the pace I'm keeping. But with eleven months left in the year, there isn't much to worry about!
On Sunday, January 25th, my non-birder dad, my eBird-obsessed brother, and I made an impromptu drive to Woods Reservoir in Franklin County, Tennessee. I wasn't expecting much...just hoping for a few FOYs. However, I was pretty excited about a Red-throated Loon report from the day before. This species has always been quite hard to find in the state, especially away from the Kentucky Lake area.
We arrived at Woods Reservoir at around eleven o'clock - an odd time for sure, but I wasn't too worried. The sun glare, however, definitely disturbed me. Sun glare and heat shimmer are both the worst when it comes to scanning water. Fortunately, neither proved to be overly terrible.
The beautiful sky!
The three of us started in the vicinity of the Morris Ferry Dock. I did a quick scan of this part of the lake to get an idea of what was out there, then made a closer study, moving from right to left. There wasn't much over here save for a few Ring-billed Gulls, dozens of Common Loons, a couple of Pied-billed Grebes, and hundreds of duck decoys near the opposite shore. All of the loons looked normal to me. No Red-throated. So we continued.
Our next stop was a gravel pull-off overlooking the reservoir and a disappearing heronry by the name of Little Elder Island. Our first of many Buffleheads of the day were hanging out with a small, fidgety group of coots near us. There were even more loons and Pied-bills visible from here and also a number of Bonaparte's Gulls swarming in the distance. We still had not sighted the Red-throated Loon, or any year bird for that matter, so we left for the dam.
I had never been to the reservoir's dam before, and it proved to be a good stop. Our only Ruddy Ducks of the day were in a tight raft here, and the most Horned Grebes I have ever seen in my life - over five hundred birds - were stretched out in a loose group over the lake. I also spotted three Common Goldeneyes, which are my favorite duck.
After a brief stop at a nearby "Waterfowl Refuge" (not sure why it's called that...), we scoped the lake from the Gossick Leadership Center. (Technically, I don't think we were supposed to be here, but I didn't figure that out until we left.) This is where we saw our lifer Red-throated Loon last March, but there was no such luck here today.
From there we went to a small spot named Brumalow Creek. Here we were closer to the Bonaparte's Gulls, and that was pretty much the only species of note.
Fast forward an hour after a quick lunch break and we were back at the view by Little Elder Island. Finally, we picked up not one but two FOYs in thirty seconds: a swimming Double-crested Cormorant and a calling Red-headed Woodpecker! (Where were these earlier?) Although both are common birds in the state that I knew I would get eventually, I was happy to check them off now.
I decided that it was best to scan Morris Ferry Dock again, and this time we actually stood on the dock, giving us an even better vantage point than previously. I scanned each bird and immediately landed on one loon that made my heart skip a beat. Smaller, straight bill (check)...rounded head (yup)...chin strap (uhuh)...upright position (compared to the Common, yes)...smaller size (oh yeah). That was my thought process when looking at the bird. "I think this is a Pacific Loon," I said to my brother, and let him look through the scope. He agreed, though I'm pretty sure he would have agreed even if I purposely showed him another Common Loon. So he ran to get our dad, who came to look and of course question us on how we knew it was a Pacific Loon.
Pacific Loon (right) with a Common Loon.
Cropped photo of the Pacific.
You can imagine how excited we were. This was only our second Pacific Loon, and it was probably the best look we'd ever have! Unfortunately I didn't have time to play with the lighting (the sky was now cloudy), so those were my best shots. Hmm...Pacific rather than Red-throated...funny how that works...
After sighting the Pacific, we headed home. This outing certainly proved to be very successful. What a day!