Arctic Loon Gavia arctica
a web page by Don Roberson
On the morning of 5 Jan 2013, Brian Sullivan discovered this loon actively feeding between the Commercial Wharf (=Wharf #2) in Monterey Harbor, and Fisherman's Wharf. Seas were calm, day was overcast with storm to come, and many loons were visible from the end of Wharf #2. Brian telephoned Rita and me (we were at Laguna Grande) and we soon got to the Harbor (that's Brian and Rita, left). The loon looked very good for Arctic Loon, so the word was spread and during the next 1.5 hour Blake Matheson, Bill Hill, Steve Rovell, Brian Weed, Rick & Cheryl Fournier, Cooper Scollen, Larry & Carole Rose and many others appeared. The loon was in view over and over again when it came to the surface, but it spent a lot of time underwater foraging, and moved incredible distances between surfacings. We had dozens and dozens of good scope views over the time. Also viewable from the wharf were at least 29 Pacific Loon, 4 Common Loon, and 3 Red-throated Loon

On every surfacing white flank patches were visible, sometimes very extensive (near right), sometimes less so (above), but also prominent at every view over the 1.5 hour. The patches were symmetrical on each flank (far right). The loon was in juvenal plumage (white chevrons at tip of the scaps), giving a 'barred' appearance, even at a distance.

Brian Sullivan has closer and better shots at this site. Bill Hill also has great shots on his web site.

The bill appeared long and heavy for Pacific, but head shape varied from time to time, depending on its 'attitude' when it surfaced. Sometimes it seemed more rounded and peaked (just above) and other times it looked flat-crowned with 'bumps' on forecrown and rear crown (first photo above).
Multiple views and angles of the head/neck showed a lack of any 'chin strap' (shown by many Pacific Loons) and when it dived, photos of the vent area (e.g., right) did not show a 'vent strap' (which is also present on many Pacific Loons; this shot may be the best for that... I think Brian Sullivan got better shots).
For fun I put a shot of the apparent Arctic Loon (above left) next to a juv Pacific Loon photographed from the pier on the same day (above right). Other differences that can be noted in these shots include the darker brown tone to the crown/nape/neck of the Arctic, while Pacific showed a distinct darker area (a wide dark-brown blurry line) separating the white front of neck from the paler brown back of neck. That line is also present on Arctic, but not nearly as distinct because the brown tone of the back of the neck is darker. Another point is the very clean-white auriculars of the Arctic; Pacific tends to have some dusky feathers there than blur the demarcation area between dark and white.
. . . later
The Arctic Loon remained throughout January 2013. This photo from 13 Jan (below) gives a very flat-crowned impression to the head, something it showed consistently during my visit that day, but which was less noticeable during the initial visit (above set).

. . . and still present 18 Jan, when I managed to snap a full-wing flap (left) and another posture (below).

Photos: All photos © Don Roberson, all rights reserved.

  page created 5 Jan 2013, revised 10 Feb 2013  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved