Following up on a Pacific Loon present off Black Rock Point, Kings Co, NS on January 30th 2017, Sandra and I went to search, along with a number of other observers, and we saw a number of loons, the majority were Common, four were Red-throated, none were Pacific and it has not been seen since the initial discovery (despite what was sent to one of the NS listservs) . As we were leaving, re-checking spots as we headed to the road home, we stopped just north of the light at Black Rock to scan, Rick Whitman was right behind us, and a rather round-headed, dusky looking loon popped up offshore.
A lone loon is not always easy to assess, size-wise, but this was not dissimilar to the 14 or so Common Loons in the area that we’d already seen. The bill was a bit on the fine side, some COLO bills are, and the neck appeared all dark including around the front, forming a clean, white chin area. The head was variously rounded, when we first saw it, then more obviously peaked at the front after a dive, which is when this set of images were taken. It didn’t really give the impression of being a Pacific Loon in the field and we confidently identified it as common.
At home, a review of the images showed the dusky neck to be somewhat anomalous for COLO, although it didn’t alter the ID or suggest an alternative. A web trawl showed nothing very similar, except for two images of Pacific Loon (as labeled). After posting to Atlantic Canada Birding on Facebook, comments were made and the general feeling is that it is a COLO but in a plumage state that none of us seem very familiar with, a rarity in that context.
These are as good I got of the oddly plumage Common Loon.
Common Loon can look variable at times, as this group of loons show. Photo by Sandra.