Mike called at 10:30 Sunday morning saying that Eric Ripma had reported on FaceBook a PACIFIC LOON and EARED GREBE at 10:05 from Rick’s Cafe on Eagle Creek Reservoir. I had planned on going out later that morning locally but figured I’d go along for the search. So for the 4th time in my years of birding I was going to chase a bird(s).
Mike picked me up and we were off to Rick’s. On the way we discussed the pertinent field marks of both species and how they differed from COMMON LOONS and HORNED GREBES. Both which should be present in good numbers.
My only encounter with an Eared Grebe was one in Illinois that was in almost breeding plumage. But I was almost certain I hadn’t seen a Pacific Loon. There was a question in my mind about our trip to Oregon a few years ago and trouble ID’ing a loon. And checking it appears I decided it was a Common Loon. So no Pacific Loon on my list.
We arrived around 11:30 and were told by Mike, Sarah, and Nick that others reported the loon had flown north. We all scanned the lake to the north and had a couple of possible candidates but the distance was too great. But way out in front of a raft of LESSER SCAUP was a grebe that matched all the field marks of a non-breeding Eared Grebe. So we were 1 for 2.
We scanned a little longer and decided to go to the only other spots on the south end of the lake that has public access. We scanned for 15-20 minutes with no luck. We then headed back to the public boat launch just north of Rick’s. We looked for another half hour when I found a loon on the far side of the lake that appeared to be smaller than a Common Loon. Too me it just didn’t “feel” right for a Common Loon. It appeared overall smaller, darker, and with a smaller bill than a Common Loon. I was pretty certain it was the Pacific Loon but at that distance I wasn’t 100% sure.
By this time we had spent an hour and half scanning and it was getting cold, so we called it a day.
I’m not going to bore you with details but at home I saw on Facebook that Ryan Sanderson had posted a photo of the Pacific Loon in roughly the same area we had seen our candidate. (Check Facebook’s Indiana Rare Bird Alert page) And below are two “looong” distance photos that compare the Pacific Loon to a Common Loon.
So what did I think about chase #4? Let’s just say I didn’t get time to check out the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK in the photo below. And chase #5 won’t be anytime soon.
And I’ll let it go at that.