Like thousands of other nature lovers, I took the chance to get outside on New Year's day and enjoy the natural world with a couple of hours birding. No question what the birds of the day were; I finally got decent looks in good light at the Lesser Scaup that have been here since early December. With the sun (sort of) out, I took the opportunity to get some (sort of) in-focus shots.
There are a number of cool things about these birds. Firstly they are on the wrong side of the Atlantic which is cool but scaup seem to manage to do that fairly regularly as do a number of other American ducks. Slightly cooler though is the fact that whilst reasonably regular vagrants to mainland Britain, no Lesser Scaup have landed here on my little island before. The bird above is a national first....unless that is it touched down immediately after the bird below.
There are two of them. Getting lost and flying across the Atlantic is one thing. Doing it with a wingman in tow is something else. These two have been faithful to a couple of sites for a while now; I'd love to see them stay and moult into their adult plumage. Intriguingly they are both unsexable first winter birds. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we got a male and female that stuck into spring.....
There isn't much of the joy of spring about them at the moment though. The odd bit of diving was a rare interruption in the apparently vital lesser scaup business of kipping (synchronised kipping in this case).
Seeing the relatively frequent vagrancy of certain American ducks (BWT, RND, scaup) makes me wonder how often our European ancestors encountered them before Columbus - did wetlanders bag an unusual duck from time to time and if so what did they think they were? Did they notice the differences? Did they taste the differences? Did they care? These were just some of my idle musings on a New Year's day afternoon.