Red-throated loon, Montaña de Oro

Rubba Johanna

Spent the afternoon at Montaña de Oro this sunny Sunday. Checked the cactus at the bridge--no sign of the Streak-backed Oriole. A Song Sparrow and two Wrentits were observed helping themselves to cactus fruit. A stroll around the campground yielded a Western Bluebird and the usual Towhees and Black Phoebes. Walking along the first section of the bluff trail, looking down into the cove, I saw a winter-plumage Red-throated Loon--thin bill, speckled dark back, gray cap and gray down the back of the neck and a little way onto the sides; dark eye, white face, throat, neck, and chest. Typical head-tilting posture. I watched the bird for a long while as it dove and surfaced and then dove again--I could see it swimming under the water down a foot or so.

Strangely, I saw a very similar bird, also in the cove, but it had reddish streaking on the throat. It was otherwise marked like the winter Red-throated Loon. I saw it twice between dives, but never saw it again. Only the other one, if it was other--I have no explanation of the red markings. Juveniles show those markings, but they are grayer overall at the same time. 

One Black Oystercatcher made an appearance on the rocks in the cove, and I saw only one Cormorant--Double-crested--all day.

A California Thrasher was singing his heart out from a perch along the parking area above the beach.

It was a beautiful afternoon with powerful surf.


Johanna Rubba
Grover Beach