Bird #219 — White-winged Scoter

melanitta (from melos, black, and netta, duck) fusca (dusky)

Sunday, February 14, 1982 — 2:35 pm

Racine, Wisconsin — Wind Point — Lake Michigan

Although I finally landed a job, Sally and I still drove up to Racine every weekend to attend Ken’s church.  I was still harboring hopes of being the youth pastor there someday.  On most of our trips, I found opportunities to go birding.

Wind Point soon became one of my favorite spots.  The point juts about half a mile into Lake Michigan a little north of the Weddle’s house.  Much of the area is residential, but the tip is covered with a nine-hole golf course.  The course is bordered with woods on two sides and the lake on the other two sides.  On the tip is an old lighthouse.  At its base is a great vantage point to watch birds moving along the lake.

I set up my scope and scanned the water. A flock of about 15 White-winged Scoters were flying south approximately a quarter mile out.  They flew in single-file, just above the surface.  They bunched up close together for a while, then stretched out in a long, stringy line, then bunched up again.  They continued in this fashion until they disappeared from view.

A second flock was also headed south, led by a female for a while.  As I watched, they slowed and landed, gliding in near a flock of Red-breasted Mergansers.  They floated, usually hidden behind the waves.  The Mergansers took off, followed by two Scoters.  I couldn’t find the others.  I imagine they took off below wave level. I also saw individuals and small groups headed north and south.

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