Real-life Loon spotted on Princess Pier

common loon flaps his wings as he attempts to discourage an approaching enemy

The Great Northern Diver, an incredibly beautiful bird - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Those of a certain vintage will fondly remember the Looney Tunes cartoons featuring such iconic characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, produced by Warner Bros from 1930 until 1969.

Well, we could certainly all do with a laugh at the moment and, while on my prescribed 'exercise period' walking along Torquay’s Princess Pier, I surprisingly encountered a real-life Loon! 

I should stress that it wasn’t actually on the pier but quite visible splashing happily around in the rather choppy sea below. 

Loons belong to a small family of relatively large water birds. They are expert swimmers but are quite ungainly on land as their legs are set so far back on their bodies.

All are migratory - breeding very occasionally on some Scottish Lochs - but more usually on lakes and pools in Greenland, Iceland and North America before moving far out to sea in winter.

The specific ‘Loon’ that I saw, more commonly known here in the UK as the Great Northern Diver is the largest of the three species of Diver that sometimes visit Devon, and although they mostly stay way out at sea when it’s particularly rough or cold, they do venture into the shelter of our bays.

This then affords the keen birdwatcher ample opportunity to watch them, and they really are - despite being in their plainer winter plumage - still an incredibly beautiful bird.

Close up of an adult common loon (Gavia immer) with wings out on Rainbow Flowage in Northern Wiscons

An adult common loon (Gavia immer) with wings out - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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They could potentially be confused with the far commoner, serpentine Cormorant, but the Diver is a far chunkier bird and its brilliant white neck and heavy bill are good diagnostic aides.

Stunning photographs of these and many other rare visitors to our patch can be found on the incredibly informative site www.devonbirds.org - well worth a visit by anyone who wants to know what birds can be seen in and around the Bay. 

Apparently, some lucky people have even seen a pure white Great Northern Diver around Salcombe… I can’t wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted!