Sunday, November 28, 2010

Joe Neal and the loons of Lake Tenkiller

  • fun with loons‏
8:16 AM

Opening Day for Loon Season in Arkansas caught me unprepared. Loon Opening, often early-to-mid-October, found me with a dusty spotting scope buried deep in the closet. Loons are scope work, but with one quick shirttail wipe and my trusty black Sharpie to X out all previously agreed-to appointments written on my calendar, I was ready to go forth and screw my good right eye to the 30 power eyepiece. For sure I was late for season opening, but fear not! 

Now it’s ALL about cold wind, big water, objects seen and unseen and imagined, near and far, about the possibility that the Far North –or maybe it was early Santa and his reindeer -- has delivered unto us some very cool freight in the form of rare birds.

2 November at Slate Gap on north side of Beaver Lake: 2 Common Loons
11 November at Lost Bridge North and South on Beaver Lake: 5 Common Loons
18 November at Indian Creek on Beaver Lake: 17 Common Loons
20 November at Lake Fayetteville on NWA Audubon Society field trip: 1 Common Loon
22 November at Bob Kidd Lake: 1 Common Loon

For looners, or maybe I should say loonies, in northwestern Arkansas, Tenkiller Lake is a necessary evil of driving and carbon emission. Tenkiller, after all, is one stop shopping for four loon species. Jacque Brown and I made a Saturday pilgrimage, the Day After Black Friday. We got two loon species: at least 65 Common Loons and 3 Pacific Loons. Off and on during the day I was sure we had ‘em all.

For me it’s just axiomatic that with eyeball screwed to eyepiece and brain in loon over-drive, what comes upon me is a vision of almost religious certainty that the pale loon with the big upturned bill is a Yellow-billed. That is, the further away loons are – and they can get VERY far on a big lake-- the more likely I am to turn what’s common into minor miracle. Funny how the closer we get, the more we find the wide range of Common Loon ages and plumages, which is just what you’d expect if the brain’s rational side was engaged. But if it was engaged, why would you even be looking to begin with? Etc.

After all the driving and all the scope work, I’m just plain nutty. Isn’t all this pretty extreme? Edgy? Here it’s Black Friday Weekend, just a day or two before Cyber Monday, and what am I doing? Why, I’m out having fun with loons! They’ve flown a long ways to get here, out of the ice and snow, and I’ve driven long to get away, far away, reasonably and even unreasonably, from Black Friday Weekend, not to mention to upcoming Cyber Monday. 

‘Tis the season, after all, to buy-buy-buy. But all the holiday hubbub ‘mongst the superior species is not evident in a big loon raft. I don’t hear a single Christmas jingle, but loons are yodeling and barking in warm afternoon sun. Myself, I’m thinking new scope, if only in my dreams. I’m wondering if ole Saint Nick has heard about the new enviro-smily HD glass? And way, way out there, near the far shore, isn’t that a Red-throated?

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