Scaup City

Greater Scaup male
Greater Scaup. Males have greenish heads, white/grey backs. Females are brown with a white patch above the bill.

Bufflehead came by the hundreds, but only a few dozen stayed.  Coots come and go unpredictably.  Of the scores of Wigeons who arrived last week, only about two dozen are still here.  Maybe fifty Ruddy Ducks remain of the uncounted flocks that visited not long ago.  But the Scaup — the Scaup have stayed.  So far.  I first saw masses of them on November 21.  This morning, the waters of the North Basin hosted maybe twice as many.  One extended raft hung near the southern end of the basin.  Another clustered more toward the middle.  As the northerly breeze picked up around 11 a.m. and blew the middle birds toward the south, they — or some of them — took to the air and flew against the wind back to their more central position.  Some of the birds swam in a loose, random-looking formation.  Others crowded together, wing to wing, all facing the same way.  The North Basin these days is theirs; it’s Scaup City.

The Cornell bird lab website says that “Occasionally an older female Greater Scaup will have male-like head color and male patterning on her back, but she still has the typical white face patch of a female.” In the still photo below, can you spot a bird with unusual coloring?

I’ve made a rough handheld video, bottom, 45 seconds worth, showing one of the extended Scaup populations near the southern edge of the North Basin today. In the last few frames you can see in the background the other main grouping near the middle of the water body.  I apologize for the unsteadiness of the video; I should have brought my tripod.  But you can get the idea. 

P.S. The next day I returned with a tripod, but the resulting video was even less stable.  When you’re panning with a long zoom lens (at 2880 mm of 35mm equivalent) the slightest unevenness of your hand on the lever turns into a major image jump.  So I discarded those videos.  On the 14th I came back without the tripod and took another handheld panorama, showing again an amazing quantity of birds on the water; that’s also below.  




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