Texas City Dike

Looking for Loons in All the Right Places

Common Loons are reported to be common along the Texas Gulf Coast during winter and spring, and we do see them from time to time. Often, however, they keep their distance from humans. At a few spots in the Galveston Bay area, loons are reported to come in fairly close to shore. We plan on visiting a few of these places before spring ends and the birds return north. This morning we went looking for loons along the Texas City Dike. From a photographic perspective, this is a location that is going to require some further study, as is usually the case when one first tries to shoot somewhere new.

We were thrilled to see about two dozen Common Loons, mostly along the South side of the dike–as one would expect after reading the literature. The problem is that the sun is in the southern sky at this time of year, and so most of the time the birds are back-lit. A few birds were present on the north side of the dike, but they stayed much further off shore. The reason is possibly that the water is too shallow for them close to the dike on the north side. Loons prefer clear deep water for fishing, and we observed numerous fish being taken by these submarine hunters.

On this trip, we tried our usual tripod techniques as well as using our car as a blind while driving down the dike (a method often recommended for this site), trying to anticipate where the birds would surface next. I did notice distinct patterns of loon behavior relative to differences in water surface texture, no doubt reflecting water depth and currents. The loons were also fairly consistent in the amount of time submerged/distance travelled underwater. In the future, I hope I can become better at connecting water texture and loon behavior so as to predict more precisely where these fascinating creatures will next surface after diving. Can’t wait to get out there looking for loons again: Offatts Bayou is next on the itinerary!

Common Loon at Texas City Dike
Living in the Wake of a Loon: Common Loon along the south side of the Texas City Dike. This beauty allowed me to practice my swimming bird tracking technique. Common Loons are common, but they often won’t let you get anywhere near them.

© 2013 Christopher R. Cunningham. All rights reserved. No text or images may be duplicated or distributed without permission.