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Pacific Vagrant...the Loon!

March 16, 2014  •  2 Comments

Pacific Divers are regular winter visitors around the coast of Japan, particularly around the northern coastline, where I had seen hundreds of them during my tenure there.  A couple of birds have been recorded off the Irish and UK coasts in recent years. Whether this is a result of an increasing population pushing east or pushing west to reach the Atlantic Ocean; or whether the decrease in the north polar ice cap allows species such as the Pacific Diver reaching the North Atlantic by coming "over the top"., is unclear  A small population of Pacific Diver is believed to have started to populate NE Canda/North America. It is also possible that the birds which have been seen around Ireland and the UK may have come from this area. 

When a bird was found on a small loch in Northern Ireland near Cookstown, called Lough Fea, it was quite unexpected and surprising. The bird was first identified in mid-January 2014 by a visiting birdwatcher from the UK.  The Lough is a small course-fishing lake with little or not bird life on it.  The Pacific Diver was the only large bird on the open water of this very exposed Lough.  I had seen Pacific Diver in Ireland before, off Finvarra Point in Co. Clare back in 2010.  However, when it emerged that the bird on Lough Fea was showing down to a few meters, I knew I had to get up there to try and get some photographs of this very rare visitor. 

I planned a trip at the start of February 2014, typically a good number of weeks into the birds' stay. I went up with a couple of other birdwatchers/photographers. It was a great day out but the bird was proving wary and kept its distance. The weather was clear but bitterly cold.  After struggling for 4 hours to get any decent photographs of the bird, our luck changed. The bird changed its behaviour for whatever reason and swam towards the gathered crowd of onlookers and admirers. The light was now in front of us and the glaring, quite harsh reflection off the water was not making it easy. The clouds were gathering and so the light was becoming even more tricky and changeable very quickly. I know it's the usual excuse given, but today it was relevant. 

The bird finally played ball and I enjoyed watching it as well as taking photographs of it. The chinstrap was so obvious, even at a great distance. This diagnostic of plumage features with which to separate it from the similar Black-throated Diver. The plumage is very smooth and sleek. Divers, for me, are very beautiful birds, very powerful in appearance yet so graceful. To have one of the rarest for these shores to make such close passes to the gathered crowd was quite something. Once we had our fill, and our disappointment in the paparazzi-type behaviour of some there made us uncomfortable, we headed back for home quite happy with seeing this beautiful bird. 


Comments

John Fogarty(non-registered)
Great photos !
Floss Gibson(non-registered)
Great shots and a very informative blog - well done Mark
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