Sunday, 24 March 2013

Off to a Flyer!

No pun intended there. So my first week at the new patch, Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore, where I will be based for the next 6 months with the RSPB. With biting easterlies and snow on the ground outside as I write this, I am thinking it may well be a silly idea to see if anything has been blown in onto the reserve. However, my patch list already tops 70 birds with plenty of waders and ducks present, but the real highlight of my first week has been a drake LESSER SCAUP. Originally located at the start of the week, it was quickly lost, but re-appeared on Friday showing at Freiston down to 30 metres.
This is a lifer for me and a cracking start to spring migration. I have a few record shots showing the key features to look for. The first photo the bird is with three Tufted Duck, a great comparison bird. Greater Scaup are slightly larger than Tufties, and this bird is slightly smaller and daintier. It also shows nicely the head shape. On Lesser Scaup, the forehead is steeped and the peak of the crown tends to be towards the back of the head giving it an oval appearance (similar to the Tufties), whereas the Greater Scaup has a much more smooth, rounded head. While these features can vary greatly with the activity of the bird, it was also observed while resting and still showed the same features.

Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis with Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula

The second photo just about shows the features of the bill, another useful way to separate male Scaups during the breading season. On Lesser Scaup, the bill is slighter and the black tip is narrower and can often be confined to the nail on the tip of the bill. The final clincher for this bird was the white that shows on the primary and secondary feathers. The Greater Scaup show extensive white on the wing which reaches almost to the tip, whereas the Lesser Scaup shows white only half way down the wing before it fades into brownish-grey.

Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis with Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula

After some deliberation, time to wrap up and head out I think!