Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Another Arizona Chase - Arizona #400
After residing and birding in one state for any length of time, there comes a time when it becomes difficult to get any new life birds in that state. This is the case of myself and Arizona. There are a few birds that reside in Arizona that I have not added to my life list, but that list is less than the number of fingers on my hand. So I have come to the point where I have to rely on rarities to show up in the state and once reported, then one has to chase that bird in a fairly timely manner as those rarities many times do not stay long.
Since my return from the epic Minnesota trip, I had not done much extensive birding and birding pal, Tommy, had to work 10 days straight, but when he was scheduled for his 2 days off, he wanted to know if I was interested in chasing a rarity in northwestern Arizona, the Yellow-billed Loon. This is North America's largest loon species and its breeding range is above the Arctic Circle in Canada, Alaska, and part of Siberia in Russia. Winter usually finds them on the Pacific Coast of Alaska and Canada, but a few do wander south in the winter and this year 2 of them appeared on Lake Mohave in northwestern Arizona. Surprisingly, at least one of them was still being seen, so Tommy and I drew up some hasty plans and headed northwest on a Thursday afternoon. I had did a little research for a cheap motel and quickly found several bargains in the Nevada casino community of Laughlin. We found rooms in a casino for only $20.00 per night! We had reservations about it, but we were not disappointed in any way. It was a great room and they had a fabulous breakfast buffet the next morning before we headed out on our search for the loon.
Many sightings were at Davis Dam which was only about 10 minutes from Laughlin, so it did not take long to arrive. Within 5 minutes of arriving, Tommy had found the Yellow-billed Loon near the Arizona side of the dam in his scope. We both had great views of it and could discern all the proper field marks. Then it dove and we never did see it come back up. They are notorious for diving and then coming up far away from their diving spot and they can stay under water for a very long time. It was not until early afternoon that we re-found this bird far over on the western Nevada side. Best views were through a scope, but I did attempt to capture some photos with the camera. Really bad photos, but with the distance, and the unrelenting wind blowing, and trying to keep my balance this is best I was able to come up with. But the photos are good enough for identification purposes. This was a milestone bird for me as well, as it was my 400th bird in the state of Arizona. They start getting tougher from here on out!
Yellow-billed Loon - Common Loon behind it.
This was not the only species of loon that we found on Lake Mohave. True to its name, the Common Loon, was by far the most common species. We also got a scope view of a Pacific Loon, but dipped on the Red-throated Loon that a few others had found. The Common Loon at least allowed a bit better photos as some of them were fairly close to the shore.
Another nice find was some Red-breasted Mergansers and in one group we had a couple of males. Previously, I had only seen females, so the males were a nice addition.
A lone, but also distant, Horned Grebe was found by Tommy as well.
I had never been to Lake Mohave before, so it was a new experience and it was an awesome body of clear water, surrounded by some cool desert mountains.
With the warm weather a couple of Common Side-blotched Lizards came out to enjoy the heat of the sun.
Common Side-bl;otched Lizard
The best mammal was a Raccoon along the Colorado River at the casino.
This post is one of the worst for great photos. Hate to list excuses, but it was a challenge due to the distance of most of the water birds. The wind, which made it difficult to hold the camera steady and focus on the subject. And lastly, I was operating with a rental lens, one I was not familiar with. It is funny how one gets so used to using their own equipment for so long, you get a feel for what adjustments need to be made.