Arctic Loon is not a bird that people see every day...in fact, most American birders have not even seen one. When I got back from Costa Rica, I was somewhat dismayed to find out one was being seen in Malibu, only an hour away from where I was staying. Although I've only seen a handful and it would have been a state bird, I just could not drag myself down there after so much good shit in Costa Rica. The instinct to chase was there, but the will was gone, crushed to bits by antshrikes, emeralds and tanager swarms.
Luckily, a far easier and more reliable one is wintering in Monterey Bay, so when it refused to leave after several weeks I considered it worthy of giving a look. Last weekend I met up with Flycatcher Jen of Portland's I Used To Hate Birds and lurked down the coast. The water was choppy and I thought I found the bird waaaayyyyy out deep, but I just couldn't be 100% sure with the bird disappearing into troughs for long periods of time and a number of Pacific Loons swimming in the same area. But the bird gods were merciful. Eventually Flycatcher Jen spotted the bird emerging out of the depths, swimming straight towards the wharf and into the harbor, where we got some quality looks before the bird gave us the slip.
Of note from this angle are the extensive white on the flanks, the noticeable bump on the forecrown, and lack of dark chinstrap.
Arctic Loons are also known for holding their bills upward when at rest; this is evident in some of my poorer photos when the bird isn't just surfacing between dives...too bad we didn't get any great comparisons with Pacifics, how fucking perfect would that be? But I was more than happy with our looks...state bird, life plumage, time to get the champagne flowing.
It was pretty dreary at the wharf that day; this Horned Grebe was the only other bird I got there worth sharing...what an eyeball. It was nice to see Northern Fulmars from shore, although they were too far out for pics...my lifer Fulmar was actually seen there, come to think of it.