Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Confusing Scaup

Scaup can be confusing, no matter what your birding skill level is. Living in the mountains of West Virginia, we tend to have our sightings few and far between. Therefore, it is tougher to get embedded into your brain here; more so than in other locations. During normal years, most of the scaup we see are Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) they are our most common and expected species. I usually expect to see a couple of Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) every other year or so.

We all have figured out by now that the winter of 2013-2014 was not normal. The Great Lakes were nearly completely frozen over and this had a major effect on waterfowl travel. We were blessed with more Greater Scaup than Lesser Scaup and I was privileged enough to be able to get several photos of both species in the same frame. Sometimes things just work out, not often but sometimes.

This next photo show a Lesser Scaup in the middle. Notice the shape of the head, shape of the bill and the barring on its flanks. I felt very lucky to get these shots. Distance, lighting and weather always seem to hinder our views, but etching things in our mind always make us more confident. This was the first time; as far back as I can remember that I have ever seen both species together in the mountains of WV. I actually took some half-hearted photos of these earlier in the day; thinking they were all Lesser Scaup. I happened to look at the photos later in the day and realized that I actually had some bad Greater Scaup shots. I rushed back to the location and they were actually still there.

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