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

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