Passing Through

Scaup assembling in North Basin for migration flight

Hundreds of Scaup assembled on the waters of the North Basin this week ready to resume their Spring migration back north to their breeding grounds. One raft of these migratory ducks gathered south of the Open Circle Viewpoint, and another, larger raft assembled to the north. The numbers amounted to many multiples of the few dozen who remained in these waters throughout the winter. These large flocks arrived from somewhere further south and landed here for a rest stop. Most of the birds were snoozing at 5 pm when the above video was taken. They wake up around sunset and take off in small groups as darkness falls. Their ultimate destination lies in the Arctic, notably in western Alaska.

The bird in the initial photo above and below is very likely a Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), based on the slightly purple appearance of the head and the narrow shape of the “nail” at the end of the bill. But this individual remained behind after the hundreds had left, and may have been part of the resident population, not the migrating travelers. My images of the migrants were not tight enough and the light not bright enough to reliably identify the species, other than that they were Scaup. The Greater (Aythya marila) and Lesser are notoriously difficult to distinguish.

Probably Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

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