Two surprise lifers

Common Loons have been reported on several lakes in Lake County (where we live) and nearby Cook County. We made a lame attempt at getting loons late last week but were skunked. The lakes we tried, where birds were reported, are very difficult to access as they are surrounded by private homes.

American White Pelicans have also been reported in the last few days, and today a report came in on a sighting that was almost too good to be true: pelicans and loons on a lake about 10 minutes from our house – with a detailed description on how to access a viewing area. We grabbed our scope and headed out minutes after reading the report.

The birds were sighted on Fox Lake, and could be seen from the parking lot of Mineola Marina, a restaurant and marina facility on the southeast side of the lake.

We arrived at the parking lot under heavy rain. We scanned the water for birds and could see three loons and several pelicans, all very far away, with the naked eye. You might be able to make out a few white spots – pelicans – in this one (click to view full size).

Fox Lake from Mineola Bay

Before getting the scope, we took photos of the closest loon. This is the best photo and a short video. You can hear the rain coming down in the video. The sound like thunder is actually wind – no thunder or lightening here today.


The loons were very hard to photograph or get in the scope as they were constantly diving. Well, that is what they do.

We also took a few photos of the pelicans. They were a bit more slow-moving. In the second photo you can see the fibrous plates on their upper bills, which are grown during breeding season. The plates are shed after the eggs are laid. Pretty wild, huh?

American White Pelicans on Fox Lake

American White Pelicans on Fox Lake

Next we brought out the scope to get better looks.

Looking through the scope in the rain

We tried our hand at digiscoping but it didn’t go too well. We’ve ordered a universal adapter to attach our camera to the scope, but it’s on backorder.

American White Pelican, badly digiscoped

That’s okay, I’m still getting used to handling the scope and tripod on their own. I still reach down towards the tripod when I want to move the scope laterally – the knob for that is much higher up, on the head. D’oh!

The weather couldn’t have been more miserable – the pileup of snow we got on Sunday was melting, making the ground soft and muddy. The sky was a dark grey curtain spilling down a constant stream of rain. True duck weather. But you know what they say – the weather’s always perfect for birding! Especially when there’s a prospect for lifers involved. Both of these were new birds for us!

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