The raft of Greater Scaup that has been approaching the water basin between the park and the city finally penetrated fully on Saturday morning. At least a hundred, maybe two — I did not have the patience to count — swam and dove in the southern pocket of the North Basin, opposite the hotel, only some tens of yards off the Virginia Street Extension. (Confused by the geography? Check out the Park Map here.) That’s as far south as you can go. Last year, the number of Scaup in this area was at least three times greater and the water became Scaup City, but it’s early yet. If you have the patience to count, here’s a video. below, that pans from one end of the raft to the other. A few birds are outside the picture but this captures about 95 per cent who were present at a few minutes before 8 a.m. An hour later they had moved to the far east side of the basin, out of convenient viewing range.
An expert birder whom I met on the path raised the issue whether these were Greater or Lesser Scaup. The lesser has a more peaked head and a flatter back of the neck than the Greater. The two often mix, but in the winter season the Greater tends to seek out coastal salt water bodies (like here) while the Lesser prefers fresh water more inland. So, the odds are that these birds here are mostly Greater. However, that’s only a guess. The birds looked like all Greater to me on quick view. However, a keen and patient observer viewing the video below might be able to pick out some Lessers, at least among the birds who happen to be on the surface at the time. Have fun!