Please tell me this is a Scaup !

  • Keep at it! My two worst ones were an exceptionally cold November night (around -5) in nothing but a sleeping bag while trying to catch up with a Green Heron (I succeeded!) and really coming close after being unable to find my sleeping gear in the dark and having to endure a very cold night in a T-shirt in a Scottish glen during an attempt to see Capercallie (I failed!). I can laugh about both events.......many years later!

  • Ah, now I am confused.  Looking at snaps on Surfbirds, the two seem id'd in reverse unless they are wrongly identified in some of the photos.  Any thoughts anyone?!

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    Not quite sure what you mean there, GB.

  • In reply to melodious:

    Hi Melodious (and anyone else!), Sorry, I do not know these birds at all well, having only seen a few many years ago, so I could do with some differentiating characteristics, please.  The female Lesser and Greater Scaup shown on the allaboutbirds site do not look identical--the Greater female having white on the face at the base of the bill and the female Lesser having far less or no white at the base of the bill.  However, looking at the first couple of photos posted on the surfbirds gallery search pages here ( www.surfbirds.com/searchimages.html , then enter Scaup and click on search) the first Lesser Scaup females pictured do have a large amount of white on the face at the base of the bill, very  like the Greater Scaup females on the allaboutbirds site, (unless the photographer has mis-identified the birds, which seems unlikely, considering the site).  Or is there a continuum between the two species?  Or...?

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    Hi GB. The key to distinguishing females and juveniles isn't the amount of white on the 'face', which varies with age and between individuals (and, at it's lower end, can overlap with Tufted Duck) but rather the size and shape of the bird. The names are pretty good; Lesser is a small duck, about the size of a Tufted Duck, sometimes even a bit smaller, while Greater is bulkier and usually bigger than a Tufted Duck. The head shape differs too; Lesser is closer to Tufted, peaking in a bump on the rear crown (but no tuft) while Greater is smoothly rounded. There is also a difference in the wing; Lesser has a wing bar that is half white and half (the outer half) dusky grey while Greater (like Tufted Duck) is white throughout. There is a complication in that Aythya ducks (the genus that includes the two scaups, Tufted Duck as well as Pochard and others) frequently hybridize and some hybrids look particularly like female Lesser Scaups, so in the UK, where Lesser in very rare (they are from North America and only a handful turn up every year) saying you have found a definite female (or juvenile) Lesser Scaup is quite a bold claim! Unsurprisingly most accepted records of Lesser Scaup in the UK (and Europe as a whole) involve males.

  • In reply to melodious:

    Thanks, Melodious.  I hope to see one or both and/or hybrids, someday, somewhere!   However I will not be whizzing up to LM to see Hazel's bird, unfortunately.  It is a long drive, not to mention commitments down here in the balmy (and now snowing) south!

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    While it will depend where you live to an extent, with a bit of patience you should get a chance to see both without too much travelling. Greater Scaup mainly winter at a few localities around the coast (particularly in Scotland) but the odd bird regularly turns up inland on reservoirs and the like and they can stay for extended periods. Lesser Scaup, while rare, often return year after year and the same individual can often tour the country and be seen at a number of different sites.

  • In reply to melodious:

    Thanks, M.  Hoping to visit Alaska in the autumn--perhaps see a Lesser then.

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    Oh, I think you might see just a few!

  • In reply to melodious:

    Oh, good, and I think you are right as we are visiting a fanatic birder and her husband.

    Kind regards, 

    Ann