Date: 11/18/20 5:24 pm
From: Dave Nutter <nutter.dave...>
Subject: [cayugabirds-l] Loon migration report 18 November
This morning starting at 0653 I spent 2 hours at the north end of the NYS-89/Flood Control Channel bridge at the south end of Cass Park in Ithaca watching for migrating loons. Sunrise was nominally at 0702, but add about 20 minutes for it to come into view at this west edge of the valley floor, although the sun was mostly not visible anyway. Despite the prediction of a 30-something-percent-and-dropping chance of precipitation, snow fell during most of the observation time, which may have reduced my ability to see loons or reduced loons’ inclination to fly. Maybe I was unlucky, or maybe I was in the 30% of Ithaca which had all the snowfall: Many times when driving taxi and heading toward Ithaca from the airport or the hospital I have seen the Cayuga Lake Valley occupied by a big sausage of cloud. This morning under what may have been such a local cloud I could look up through the falling snow and clouds and see that there was some blue sky above. I should not have been surprised if this was locally-enhanced lake-effect snow, because the below-freezing wind was aligned with Cayuga Lake.

I don’t know if loons were deterred from migrating by the snow & clouds, or whether they flew above it or flew straight where the lake valley bends at Taughannock to bypass Ithaca, but I did not see a big loon migration. I’d like to hear if other folks observed migrating loons today. On the other hand, there was a non-zero number of migrating loons. All appeared to be Common Loons. The heading I give is the direction that loons appeared to leave, even if they changed direction while I saw them.

0653 start of observation ... no loons seen for 29 minutes....
0722 1 flying SE during a brief respite in snowfall
0756 1 flying NW
0801 1 flying SE
0802 3 flying SE
0804 19 flying SE
0807 13 flying SE
0810 1 turning clockwise to head N
0811 1 flying ESE
0821 1 flying S
0822 1 flying SE
0853 end of observation.

Loons were particularly sparse during the period when one would expect them to arrive from Cayuga Lake if they took off around sunrise. All loons in groups were late enough to have been from Lake Ontario. The two large groups were particularly high, and one of them was found in the background of the binocular view of a closer bird, making me wonder if I overlooked other groups. Nearly all loons appeared to head SE toward South Hill rather than follow the Cayuga Inlet Valley and bend to the SW, perhaps relying on the glow of the sun as a general compass.

I also happened to see several loons from my east-facing windows during less diligent observations later in the day:

1134 1 flying S
1145 1 flying S
1148 1 flying S
1149 2 flying S
1204 4 flying S

It’s possible that with reduced snowfall and increased sunshine, these later loons followed a different trajectory. It’s also possible that the view from my windows means that loons hugging my side of the valley and going more directly south are more likely to be seen or that in this more limited view they are more likely to appear to be going south.

In other loon migration news Sue Gregoire doing a loon watch from the dock at Smith Park on Seneca Lake from 0705 to 0815 saw 54 southbound and 17 northbound loons, while as I understand it, John Gregoire watching from the Kestrel Haven Bird Observatory on Fitzgerald Rd in Hector saw none.

Sue Gregoire also mentioned that hundreds of thousands of gulls were also migrating south along Seneca Lake. I did not try to count gulls, some of which were wheeling in kettles and some of which flew more directly, but I would also say that there were thousands - far more than the local few hundred I have seen resting on the Red Lighthouse Breakwater or the Allan H Treman marina docks - and they were generally southbound.

My CayugaBirds-L post yesterday prompted a secondhand report by Reuben Stoltzfus that on 14 November Adam Troyer saw 204 loons, presumably from his family’s farm high on the hill east of Candor, and on 16 November Adam saw 3 loons, including a Red-throated Loon, which is an unusual find in Tioga County, NY.

- - Dave Nutter
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