Something got the Scaup stirred up on the North Basin this morning. Much of the flock stayed in the water but a sizable portion took to the air and headed south, then turned back north, then south again before settling back in the water. When in the water, these birds sometimes form long trains, two or three abreast, all headed in the same direction, as you can see in part of this video. The birds in flight might have been in the rear of the train and took to the air to get forward. Two pairs of big grebes, probably Clark’s, paddled alongside like sheepdogs with a herd of dogies. At other times, particularly when sleeping, the Scaup spread out in big irregular patches.
These birds flap at a very rapid pace. This looks like it requires a lot of energy and would limit their range and speed. However, they migrate annually from near the Arctic Circle to as far south as Baja California and have been clocked at 75 mph in flight, a challenge to duck hunters.
Their numbers in the North Basin at this time were quite reduced to about a third of what they were a couple of weeks ago, but another large raft of them sat further out in the bay, beyond clear visibility. The Scaup definitely dominate the water at this time. Only a few Bufflehead remain in small, scattered groupings.