Date: 1/29/18 6:38 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Bob Caulk, Sara Caulk and I counted close to 240 loons yesterday at Tenkiller Ferry Lake in northeastern Oklahoma yesterday. Almost all were Common Loons, but we also had views of Red-throated (1, possibly 2 others) and Pacific Loon (1). In terms of loon-watching, it was the day made in heaven. There was almost now wind, which meant flat water, allowing distant views. It was so quiet sounds of taking off wing flaps from American White Pelicans were astonishing. Good sunlight meant we could see quite well – even the striking red eyes of loons. Few boats overall on a day in which the temperature reached 61 by early afternoon.

Tenkiller loons are now heavily concentrated in the lake’s lower half, from Buckhorn to the dam. The water is quite low. Presumably, whatever fish-wise loons prefer in Tenkiller is more available in the deeper waters closer to the dam. Highest numbers of loons were visible from boat ramps at Chicken Creek and Blackgum. On a good calm day like this you can see a lot, even with binoculars, but of course a lot more with a scope. Also, a scope extends the ability to turn almost any very, very distant bird into a Yellow-billed Loon.

For those of you don’t live in western Arkansas, we make Tenkiller trips by choice because good winter loon lakes in Arkansas like Maumelle and DeGray are a much longer drive. Loons don’t recognize the state line anyway, so an Okie loon is as good as an Arkie loon, or at least that’s how I see it on the 72-mile drive from Fayetteville.

Finally, it is hard to spend a day looking at loons anywhere and not feel deeply disturbed by the Interior Department crawfishing on environmental protection. They’ve undertaken a new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in regards industries that inadvertently kill birds. Big killers have involved oil drilling (birds trapped in wastewater pits), wind power and communications towers (millions of migratory birds killed annually in avoidable collisions). Some far-sighted industries will likely continue their efforts to protect birds. Others will take the low road and save money by ending bird-friendly practices.

Protective laws like Migratory Bird Treaty Act should not be political footballs. Since time immemorial, Earth has intended journeys like loon migration to be “bird-friendly.” If we don’t protect their journey, we endanger our own journey.

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