Monday, January 15, 2018

Ice-breaking Ferry

Great birding in Delaware, plus the chance to be out with the eyes, ears and skills of my son Tim, lured me across the bay yesterday. And it was indeed great - both light and dark morph Rough-legged Hawks, Snowy Owl, 60+ Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspur, and epic Snow Goose snowstorms at/near Prime Hook NWR, plus terrific waterbirding on the coast. Of course, the wind chill dipped to zero, which made the return trip on the Cape May - Lewes Ferry very special. The sound in the video is not wind . . . it's ice breaking. Made me think of the Titanic, but a safe crossing was made. I've never had a bad trip on that ferry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fri-D: Scaup

I've said it for years, and I'll say it again: why, after almost 40 years of birding, studying every possible resource and every possible duck, do I still have trouble with telling Lesser Scaup from Greater Scaup?

Because it's not easy, that's why.

Let me walk that back a bit. I think I've got the scaup thing worked out pretty well, finally, but many times over the years very skilled birders have debated a scaup's identity right in front of me. And it. If only they could talk. The scaup, I mean.

So. I love it when they fly, because then the uncertainty virtually disappears. If the white on the wing pushes strongly out onto the primary feathers, as in the birds above, they are Greater Scaup. If it looks more like a "speculum," they are Lesser Scaup. Or, as Sibley puts it in his second edition field guide, "more white" and "less white." Brilliant. Using this mark requires one to know where the primaries and secondaries of the wing part ways, so study your field guides diagrams on bird topography.

These Greater Scaup flew past the 8th Street jetty in Avalon, NJ yesterday. Click to enlarge.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter Color: Last Photo of 2017

[Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, near Turkey Point, Cumberland County, NJ on New Year's Eve day, 2017. Click to enlarge.]

In winter, any splash of color is a welcome splash, and this sapsucker during the frigid Cumberland Christmas Bird Count sure was easy on the eyes.