We usually see Scaup like scattered sprinkles on a big blue cake. This morning, I saw only a small flock of nine, remnants of a thousand or more that spread over the water earlier in the week. We rarely get a chance to see one of these ducks up close. Recently, a male and a female got bored with sleeping in the water like their 999 peers and climbed up on the stones at the edge of the seasonal Burrowing Owl Sanctuary for their slumber time. I happened to be there as they woke up — or maybe I woke them up — and got these more personal portraits.
One thing that surprised me from these pictures was the birds’ ability to articulate the tip of their upper bill. Both the male and the female can open just the last half inch or so of their bill. I had thought the whole bill was rigid.
Seen up close, the birds seem to have a personality, don’t they? These particular individuals have something that distinguishes them from their peers: they chose to sleep on land instead of in the water. What went into that decision? Will we ever be able to figure it out? We have amazing technology but we’re still in the dark ages of learning bird language and bird decision-making.