Yellow-billed Loon

I have begun the long and tedious task of scanning my historical slide archive and will be posting some of the images here from time to time. Luckily I have some motivation to do so as I’m getting the chance to look back through many memorable experiences and exciting moments!

I started the process by scanning one of my favorite North American birds – the Yellow-billed Loon. The Yellow-billed Loon is our largest loon and breeds in the far northern reaches of Alaska and Western Canada. In the United States the vast majority of Yellow-billed Loons breed in the National Petroleum Reserve putting them at great risk of disturbance from future energy development there.

I photographed these individuals many years ago while doing breeding bird surveys on the Colville River Delta in Alaska. Normally these birds are rather wary but I located a spot the year prior to the one in which I took these photos where I thought I’d have a chance of getting close to them. The following year I had about 20 minutes to hike to these birds and try for a few images before a helicopter was to pick up the crew I was working with. The birds were right where I left them a season before and I slowly crawled toward a small lobe of the large lake they were nesting on. Once there I got lucky – the light brightened for a few minutes and I had one of my most memorable moments in the Alaskan Arctic as one member of the pair swam, preened and called just meters away from me. The Yellow-billed Loon is one of the most charismatic birds I have ever had the pleasure to observe.

Since these images were taken an airstrip and oil drilling pad have been built just a kilometer or so away in the middle of the Colville Delta changing the place forever.


Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)



Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)



Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage wing stretching on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)
Adult Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii) in breeding plumage wing stretching on a tundra pond. Arctic Coastal Plain, Alaska. June. (Gerrit Vyn)


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