Friday, 18 October 2013

Pacific Loon - Innisfil, Simcoe Co.

Quick post tonight since I'm supposed to be packing for Netitishi, going to sleep, and waking up in about 7 hours.

[ONTBIRDS] Pacific Loon - Innisfil, Simcoe Co.

Juv Pacific Loon with a large group of Common Loons on Lake Simcoe off Innisfil. I am viewing the birds from a park at the east end of Innisfil Beach Road. The birds are mostly off the south side of the point. There are close to 1000 Common Loons here, and the odd Red-throated Loon and Red-necked Grebe. There are several close Little Gulls here as well, and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Josh Vandermeulen


Yep, that just about says it all... I got off work at noon today and headed straight up to Lake Simcoe which I consider part of my local patch (it's only half an hour from my house!). The winds were strong out of the west and so I stuck to the west side of the lake, thinking that whatever birds were on the lake would probably be huddled close to shore, out of the wind.

Turns out I was right! Several of the little inlets and bays from Cook's Bay right up to Barrie were chock full of birds. Bonaparte's Gulls, Common Loons, and Double-crested Cormorants made up most of the bulk of birds. 

Just south of Innisfil, I noticed a large congregation of gulls, loons, and cormorants feeding out over the lake, and so I eventually headed out to the park at the east terminus of Innisfil Beach Road. Looking to the south, I was surprised to see hundreds of Common Loons! 

After about half an hour of scanning, a different loon stood out to me - juvenile Pacific Loon! The rounded head/nape, lack of white crescents around the eye, dark back, and clean line separating the white throat with the dark back of the neck screamed Pacific Loon. Unfortunately the bird was diving frequently and I only had brief 5 to 10 second looks at a time before it would be back under.

It was a hard bird to keep track of and I eventually lost it before David Szmyr arrived...while we couldn't turn it back up, we did have a lot of fun seeing Little Gulls catching Ghost Midges from 50 meters away. It was one of those moments where I wished I could have gone back in time to that morning, grabbed my camera, and put it in my car. Hard to photograph Little Gulls in perfect light without a camera...Even without a camera, it was pretty awesome to have 9+ Little Gulls in view at a time here.

Other highlights included an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, some of the first "winter ducks" of the season (Bufflehead, scaup, Redhead, White-winged Scoter etc), and at least 8 Red-throated Loons. I spent some time counting the Common Loons and came up with 1480 just from where we were standing. In all likelihood there were well over 2000 in the area at the time! I would not be surprised if there are more than just the one Pacific Loon mixed in with the group. 

Needless to say, I think my "local patch" can be pretty good birding! Take that, Brandon and your stupid condo! (What's that? You already have Pacific Loon for your condo list? Nevermind then...)


  1. Congrats on the PALO find JV! You should send an email to Ken to let him know what they look like...

    Beyond that, all I have to say is:

  2. Josh,

    Those Loons , gulls, grebes cormies are all primarily pounding emerald shiners. It is an annual event on Lake Simcoe. I have in the past seen these fishing armadas actually drive schools of emerald shiner up onto the shore. Good to see so many loons on Lake Simcoe and not dying on Nottawasaga Bay like the all birds washing up currently.

    Emerald Shiner biology brings this species into shallow nearshore areas every mid to late fall. Places lake the Great Lakes, Simcoe, Nipissing all have this event.