Friday, March 15, 2013

LOONS AND CORMORANTS

The common loon is one of the most gorgeous birds on the planet when in his mating wardrobe.  Through the summer they are brown in color but, when the breeding season gets close their plumage changes - in late winter.  Loons winter south of the Mason Dixon line and migrate to all points of Canada, Alaska and even farther north.  It's a rare site for me to see one in his beautiful breeding plumage, let alone get close enough to photograph him.  Today was the day.


Keep in mind that this bird is a plain brown bird through the summer.  The eyes are usually dark brown or black.  They change to red during breeding season.


Below is the summer plumage.  Quite a contrast!
I really wanted good shots of this bird and was fiddling with adjustments on the camera and taking duplicate shots at different settings.  I did all that and still didn't perform the one adjustment change that would have settled everything.  I didn't think to change the metering from average to spot metering.  I always do that.  The pictures came out pretty good I think.  The bird was pretty far away but, the 500 mm lens got him in the camera in good shape.

It may be years before an opportunity to photograph a loon in breeding plumage arises again.  These shots are precious to me and I will make duplicates and back everything up twice or three times.  Mr. Loon dove beneath the surface and was gone. Yep - he just evaporated.  They are masters of the water.
The cormorants have been scarce all winter.  They migrate to parts unknown in the winter but, some stay behind on the lake.  They are now returning to our lakes in great numbers.  Cormorants are funny.  They seem to do everything with great fervor.  They can't just take off in flight.  They are the most spastic bird imaginable when it comes to launching into the air.  At first one or two birds will leap off their perch, run across the top of the water flapping their wings and eventually gain enough speed to create that all important air flow over and under their long wings that give lift and eventually full flight.  The thing is that when one bird goes - they all seem to have to follow.  It reminds me of a cattle stampede.  Watching them is fun, to say the least.

The proposition of flight is a mad, chaotic,  seemingly confusing scramble to find enough space between birds for more birds to fit through and they all try to squeeze through the holes at the same time.


Once they get all sorted out they can really turn up the throttle and bolt away.

Yes - they are birds that fly in flocks.  Individual birds often can be seen flying alone but, they surely have a home pack they hang out with.  They are gregarious.  
The geese below have claimed that island shoreline as their own.  Soon there will be eggs laying on the open ground and chicks will appear shortly after.
So, that's about it for this entry.  I really wanted to record the loon on the blog.  You have to see one in person to really appreciate it.
I'm going to Chattanooga tomorrow morning to pick up a 17 foot long Mohawk canoe. I've thought and thought about it and tried to fight off the urge to get one but, Shade won out. I really miss her when I'm paddling the canoe as  I like to stop on shorelines to look around and doing shoreline walkabouts alone without her is boring    That canoe is big, heavy and very solid on the water - solid enough that Shade can't tip it over.  Watch - she will probably refuse to get in the thing.  This year I am definitely doing more camping at Calderwood Lake with the canoe or the Gheenoe and Shade.  The gasoline costs are restricting my one afternoon visits back west of here making overnight, two day stays more practical.   Anyway - I hoped you liked the loon and please stay tuned in as this is going to be a great summer of exploration for Shade and me.  Thanks.