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I went to Smithville Lake this afternoon. It's amazing how the lake can come to life as dusk approaches. When I scanned from the dam at about 3:30 p.m., the lake was nearly empty. By dusk, it was filled with hundreds of birds.

When I arrive at the dam at 4:45 p.m., Doug Willis was already there. He stated that a PACIFIC LOON had just been flushed by a motorboat. Loons kept appearing as we scanned. They included two birds, which were probably Pacific Loons and 9-10 others, which were either definitely Common Loons or probably Common Loons.

 We had pretty good looks at the two probable Pacific Loons but were having some difficulty being sure. They were small and small-billed without the light area around the eye one usually sees with Common Loons. They did not have the jagged neck markings of Common Loons, but the vertical division between the dark and light on the neck was not as clean as I would have liiked. Nor did we notice the nape being paler than the back. One bird did have a chinstrap and barring on the back similar to that of a juvenile Pacific Loon.

I have run through Pacific Loon on Google Images and note that there does appear to be a dark notch at the level of the breast on the necks of some birds. See e.g. www.jeaniron.ca/2005/PacificLoon.htm. (first small picture on the right).

The neck markings are not always as clean as depicted in the books and there are certainly example where 
the light nape vs dark back contrast is not apparent. See e.g..

 http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://stevemetzphotography.com/images/Oklahoma/Pacific-Loon1c_filtered.jpg&imgrefurl=http://stevemetzphotography.com/photo%2520pages/Oklahoma/Pacific%2520Loon.htm&h=434&w=584&sz=83&hl=en&start=9&tbnid=3DhJ1ncdw4AicM:&tbnh=100&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3DPacific%2BLoon%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26sa%3DG

Bottom line: There are probably three Pacific Loons on Smithville Lake, but it would be nice to have more confirmation.

The lake also filled up with gulls and ducks as dusk approached. The ducks included some Common Goldeneye and quite a few Hooded Mergansers in addition to the usual Mallards and Gadwall. I noticed a couple of Herring Gulls among the gulls but did not see anything really unusual stand out.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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