Ignored Tailwind

Scaup, probably Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

We had several days of stiff northerly breezes that would have made ideal tailwinds for birds headed south. Who doesn’t love a tailwind? But these scaup ignored nature’s offer and stayed around, bobbing up and down in the choppy waters of the North Basin. It was only when the winds turned westerly and southerly on the weekend that some major fraction of them picked up and departed. Apparently they prefer a crosswind and even a headwind. Possibly the wind carries some information they use for navigation? In any case, a raft of perhaps two hundred, as well as several smaller flocks of a dozen or so, remained here during the brief Sunday night rains, and some of them were busy foraging. As long as the feeding is good, perhaps they’ll stay. As always, a handful of big grebes, some cormorants, and the inevitable gulls were keeping an eye on them.

My guess is that these are Greater Scaup. The Greater and the Lesser look so much alike that at this distance it’s practically guesswork to tell them apart. Opinions will differ.

Update Oct. 19: Only about 70 scaup still visible in North Basin, last holdouts from more than a thousand that visited a week earlier. They migrate in smaller groups, not in big masses.

Scaup, probably Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

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