Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chasing the Yellow-billed Loon or why Rosario Head is so wonderful

On January 25th, my crazy birder friend Tina and I sallied forth in pursuit of a rare Yellow-billed Loon visiting from the Arctic.  Reports had been coming in for days so we changed our birding plans and Tina drove us to Rosario Head (near Deception Pass) via some fields in Skagit so we could also look for the wintering swans.  It was a fabulous day of birding despite the park facilities being closed for the winter.  The parking lot was chained off, the restrooms were closed but there were portapotties at the turnoff so we were able to act on Birding Rule #1 - use any restroom you can, because you don't know when you'll find another one.

Rosario Head is part of Deception Pass State Park and the hiking trails are well advertised.  We were looking to go up on top of the Head itself and look down on Northwest Island and Rosario Beach.  From this vantage point, we had excellent views as long as we were using a scope.  The visiting rare loon was frolicking behind Northwest Island and coming out on either end every so often to parade in front of all the visiting birders.  We saw at least a dozen other people and it was a weekday.  Clearly, this was a popular bird.

I was not able to get a photo of the loon, but here's one borrowed from the webpage.

This looks an awful lot like the Common Loon, except the bill is yellow instead of black.  So, once the bird pops out, it's pretty easy to make that id.

Once we'd identified the rare loon, we waited for an opportunity to photograph it while we looked for other birds and watched some dolphins frolicking in the water.  There was also a sea lion, probably, since it was much bigger than a seal would have been.   I was not able to get a photo of the loon but I did get some quality views of some other birds hanging out on the rocks just north of the head.  We were a fair distance up in the air and I don't have one of those honking big lenses for my camera, so I was only able to get a distant shot of the Harlequin Duck posing on the rocks.  I like the strong patterning on this duck and enjoy watching them play in the water.

All in all, it was an excellent day birding.  Like fishing, even a bad day birding is a good day so an excellent day birding is, well, truly excellent.  Here's hoping for many more days like this.

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