Monday, April 5, 2010

Study Time in The Field - Greater vs Lesser Scaup...

Raft of Scaup

Before I begin this post, let me just say that the following comments on Greater vs Lesser is purely from a newbie and humble perspective. I don't claim any expertise with the species and only share what I understand in the hopes it might help others.

There are those days where I simply go out into the field and pick a species to spend some time to study and review what I have learned. On the 31st of March, I ventured out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to put in some time looking at Scaup. Just a few weeks ago there were well over 5,000 Scaup on the West Pond and it made sorting through them quite the task. However, as I have learned from being in the company of very experienced birders, like Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Tom Burke and Gail Benson. One must remain "focused" while tackling large flocks of birds. So, with this huge raft of Scaup, I tried to apply what I have learned (from some of the best) and in doing so chose to go through this exercise by taking small amounts of ducks at a time. It was fun and I took some documentation digiscoping shots to show the comparison of the Greater vs Lesser Scaup.

Quite a few diagnostic features stood out, such as the head being taller in a Lesser Scaup showing the obvious corner at the rear. The body or flanks of the Greater Scaup being much whiter than a Lesser. All of these features are well covered in the Sibley's Field Guide To Birds of Eastern North America. There were some other things I noticed, one item in particular that I need to get additional photographs of Greater and Lesser Scaup to see if there is any consistency, so this might be a post that I circle back to at a later date. Hopefully the photos from this post provides a realistic look at what is presented live in the field and helps in nailing down the ID.


Highlighting some of the field marks of the Greater vs Lesser Scaup

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8 comments:

Pat said...

Very well done - I really like this post. I look forward to learning more birding tips from you - sans SB!

Idaho Birder said...

Funny you should have this post today. I just today identified by first ever Greater Scaup. I too had to refer to my Sibley Guide, but of Western North America. I had side-by-side comparisons and they were textbook examples. No photos though.

forestal said...

very interesting. I am always blown away how many birds i may have looked at without seeing. These are not on my life list but wonder if i have looked with too inexperienced an eye.
Great post and great information.

dan

Cindy said...

Wow, that's a lot of scaup. Except for the head shape differences the differences are really fine. I guess studying them in the field to really experience the differences is vital. I was at jamaica Bay the day after you I think. I didn't see quite as many and they were far off, though a couple of lesser scaups came in close. I will have to study my pictures now. Thanks for the information.

BIRDINGDUDE said...

@Pat - Thanks Pat, I started working on a couple SB ones last Summer, but held off because I wanted photos from different location to do more comparisons. Stay tuned :)

BIRDINGDUDE said...

@Idaho Birder - Cool...always a feeling of satisfaction when you get an ID correct. Especially, when you do it on your own.

BIRDINGDUDE said...

@forestal - Tough to thank back on what you might have missed. I try to always look ahead and applying what I have learned, to get better. In the raft of Scaup, there was 1 Canvasback Duck that many, many birders missed.

BIRDINGDUDE said...

@Cindy - Yep, you visit Jamaica Bay, you have a good perspective on how tough it could be sifting through flocks of birds way out on the Bay or West Pond. A real challenge was picking out the Barrow's Goldeneye (when it was there) in the Bay during choppy tides. That was an exercise I thoroughly enjoyed.