Ken & Sue Feustel and Doug Futuyma found a likely Pacific Loon in partial breeding plumage at Nickerson Beach this morning, and Pat and I were able to re-find it and observe a definitive combination of features: size and structure in direct comparison to Red-throated Loon, and combination of gray head, black face and throat, and a partly white-checkered panel on the back. The bird was quite distant and difficult at best to observe, and Pat and I lost it entirely as it began feeding actively and drifting westward from the area in front of the eastern tern colony. Tom Burke and Gail Benson were unable later to find any candidate loon in the area.
The earlier observers were not able to see the white markings on the back and were further concerned that the nape did not appear pale, resulting in some uncertainty. I agree that the nape didn't look pale, but nevertheless feel confident ruling out both Common (of which three basic plumaged individuals were present) and Red-throated Loon (of which four basic and one alternate plumaged individuals were present). After leaving Nickerson, Pat and I ran into Doug at nearby Lido Preserve (roughly opposite Nickerson, on the bay side). While conducting a moderately careful counting of the Brant (much diminished since last week), I found a non-hrota Brant resembling Pacific Black Brant in most ways, but the absolute tone of its dark, extensive apron was definitely paler than expected on orientalis, and more like that of Gray-bellied Brant (nigricans). The neck collar was quite bold and possibly complete in the front (we weren't sure about this), the rear edge of the apron was pretty well-defined (as in Black and unlike Gray-bellied), and the head had the blocky, straight-profiled appearance I associate with Black Brant, so it is perhaps best interpreted as a variant, or worn/faded Black Brant. I'll post an update after I get a chance to look at my photos. Shai Mitra Bay Shore, NY -- NYSbirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsWELCOME.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsRULES.htm http://www.NortheastBirding.com/NYSbirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://email@example.com/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L 3) http://birding.aba.org/maillist/NY01 Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --