It’s the time of year when birds that migrated south late last year are heading back north again to their breeding grounds. In this video, a flock of more than two dozen Greater Scaup snoozed on the waves during the day. In late afternoon, shortly before sunset, too quickly to catch on video, they all took off in a northerly direction. (It’s common for birds to migrate in the dark.) A day or two later, a smaller flock arrived and rested in rough waters, probably waiting until the stiff northern wind abates. In a nearby patch of the cove, a flock of grebes, mostly Western, with Clark’s mixed in, rested and saved their energies for the long flight home. This scene repeats in the following days: up to a hundred grebes one day and the next, then gone; then dozens of scaup mixed in with grebes, also for a day or two, then gone.
These flocks of scaup are much smaller than the rafts of scaup that visited here on their southward migration. It looks like the decline of daylight and the advance of cold weather in the north drove the birds southward across a broad front, while the timing of the return flight is subject to many considerations, leading small flocks to move separately. Or so it seems.