Saturday, March 9, 2013

A RED BREASTED MERGANSER AND THE LOON

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Shade was looking very professional today and I thought I’d post a couple pictures of her on the blog.  She spent the day with me at work and was a perfect lady at all times.
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Shade is a big girl.  She’s not 100% black lab but, I don’t care.  That’s not important at all.  I am curious where she gets her big boned body and all the muscles.  Her chest is wide and deep with legs that are muscular and very powerful.  Look at that facial profile.
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She sure has that lab muzzle.  Again – look at how powerful she is across the shoulders.  I’d hate it if she was mad at me.  She promptly rolled in something dead and I made her swim for half an hour.  That’s her only downfall. 
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She has a deformed left ear.  It sticks out when the other one droops down.  No big deal.  She was born that way.  She’s a sweet girl but looks intimidating at times when she puts the stare on ya.
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I thought about not posting to the blog tonight due to the fact that I was very busy on the lake today and didn’t have time to think of anything but work.  But, at the end of the shift while driving back to the boat ramp I noticed some common loons directly ahead.  I thought I’d try to get a few shots of them.
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The male loons above are in their breeding plumage.  They will soon be departing for parts north to breed in Canada, if I had my guess. I’ve never seen a male loon in breeding plumage stay here on the lakes of Tennessee in the spring.   Some loons stay here on these lakes year round but, these fellows will be gone very, very soon.  The birds were photographed at a pretty far distance but some of their plumage detail is captured.  Below is a female common loon.
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Common loons winter on coastal bays.  They breed from the Aleutian Islands and Alaska all the way across Canada.  They will winter along the Great Lakes also.  Loons are strong divers and swimmers and fish is the prey they seek.  Their breeding plumage is black on head, neck and back with white spots.  Winter plumage is gray with white belly an breast.  The loon above may or may not migrate north to breed.
Now then – as I was watching the loons, an odd looking bird surfaced directly in front of the boat.  I thought it a loon at first but noticed an orange beak and a couple patches of what appeared like mussed up hair protruding straight out on the back of its head.
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He is a very fast swimmer and dove in an instant and surfaced fifty feet to my right.
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I have never seen this species on any lake in Tennessee in the eleven years I’ve been roaming around here.  It resembled a loon body-wise but that’s about it.  His beak is orange and that white band around his neck with the rusty color on the breast really makes him a special sight.
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I had no clue about him.  I took great care photographing him as I thought he might be a rare find.  I’m beginning to think he is.  I’ve emailed several knowledgeable bird people about him but will probably have to wait until tomorrow to see if he’s rare or not.  I searched the bird books and the third book described the mystery bird.  He is a red breasted merganser.
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He moved his head in quick jerks or snaps.  Everything he did was quick. He’s a bird with a mission.  His mission is survival.   His eyes were fire red and the beak bright orange.  He is beautiful but, I suspect out of his territory.
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Red breasted mergansers breed on wooded lakes and tundra ponds and winter on salt water.  It breeds in Alaska and Northern Canada to newfoundland and as far south as the Great Lakes.  That’s pretty far from Tennessee.  He winters in Alaska to as far south as northern California.  So, what the heck is he doing in Tennessee?  It’s a diver and is a fast swimmer to catch fish with it’s hooked beak lined with seriated teeth.  If he is way off course and out of his territory – at least he will survive just fine as the environment here is much like the northern territories he’s accustomed to.  The only thing is that one is a lonely number.  I guess he has the loons to hang with.
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That little bird made my day. 
I pulled the tarp off the Gheenoe this morning and scrubbed it down really good.  Everything got a cleaning including inside the hatches and the bilge.  That baby’s ready to go.
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I left the hatches open all day to let the sun light in to kill any mold and to dry out the water.  She looks new again.  I can’t wait to hit the water on these warm days.
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