Sunday, October 26, 2008

Aythya puzzle

I spent the first part of the morning at sunny Scaling Dam. Behaviour is often a guide to something different so when I saw a "Tufted Duck" associating closely with a Goldeneye for 30 minutes or so I was suspicious. Closer observation confirmed that this bird did not look like a Tuftie but it didn't look like a straightforward Scaup either. The round head and the big bill pointed to Scaup (and excluded Lesser Scaup bye-the-bye). Views with the scope at reasonable range seemed to indicate a bill pattern that was inconsistent with Scaup, black beyond the nail. There seemed to be an indistinct pale patch to the rea of the cheek. Fortunately I clicked off some - rather distant I'm afraid - pix. Magnified up these seem to show that the black is indeed just retricted to the nail, perhaps water on the bill made it look dark in the field. I reckon this is indeed a first winter female Scaup but I'll stand to be corrected by any quacker experts out there.

Scaup? No Tufted Duck
This bird is in fact most probably a Tufted Duck, a repeat look at it confirmed it is too small for a Scaup, the cheek patch was not strong enough, the head does have a small tuft, though hard to see.

It wasn't really a birding day, not living in Kent anymore, so much of the day was spent in Whitby Pavillion. However, emerging I gave the sea a quick scan and a Great Northern Diver flew by, conveniently close.

We went to Sandsend for a walk by the sea, not such a good mix of gulls this time but this Kestrel was a bit of a poser. Only two Red-throated Divers in the bay today.



Boulmer Birder said...

Alastair, that doesn't look like a Scaup to me. Head and bill not big enough? but one or two photos can be decieving. It looks very like the female Lesser we had last year at Linton in May see my blog May 07. Maybe some better views are needed, but it is an interesting bird anyway.

Boulmer Birder said...

Head not right for Lesser. You're probably right Alastair...

Alastair said...

I think this is quite a difficult bird. I guess it's possible it's a hybrid but I think the nail is good. Chances are it's a first winter Scaup, probably a female but I'm not entirely confident. The head was very round, too round for Tufted I think, they always tend to show a bit of a tuft / angle to the rear of the head don't they. I'll be back for better views and pix tomorrow maybe.