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I went to Smithville between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m. this afternoon. Upon arrival, I discovered a Red-throated Loon just off the dam. This was NOT the bird Kristi Mayo found earlier in the week. Unlike that bird, which evidently was still partially in alternate plumage, this bird was entirely in basic plumage -- a very pale bird with a white neck and white face. (After scanning from the north end of the dam 1/2 hour, I returned to the south end and re-found the Red-throated Loon at the mouth of the cove between the Crow's Creek campground and the picnic area).

The cold front brought about a tremendous change in the composition of duck flocks on the lake. The lake has gone in 10 days from a ratio of 10 to 1, dabblers to divers, to almost the reverse, with divers predominating. There are still thousands of ducks on the lake, but most of them are divers. Most are scaup, but there are hundreds of Ruddies (most of the males) as well and 100 or more Buffleheads (most of them males). 

The ducks were widely scattered over the lake today. However, the largest rafts were off the picnic area and Crow's Creek cove.

There were a few Horned Grebes on the lake. They were somewhat difficult to pick up with so many white-faced male Ruddies around.

Interesting experience: In 45 minutes of scanning the lake between 2:30 and 3:15 p.m., I did not see a single Common Loon. When I returned to the dam at 4:00 p.m., there were 7 Common Loons swimming together in a line, but I could not find the Red-throated Loon. 

Loons are easy to  miss while they are feeding. They  spend a great deal of the time under water, out of sight while the scope scans by. At Smithville, the Common Loons seem to gather and prepare to roost together as dusk approaches. 


Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri

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