Bird #118 — Greater Scaup

aythya (seabird) marila (embers of charcoal, black)

Monday, March 24, 1980 — 5:00 pm

Wilmette, Illinois — Gillson Park — Lake Michigan

From day one, I wanted to be a good birder.  I determined not to put any bird on my list unless I was positive about the identification.  Although there are a few birds that I would have liked a better look at, I’ve always been careful.

I spent an entire half hour studying these ducks.  I would have stayed longer, but it was getting dark and my friends wanted to leave.  The ducks were swimming in the harbor, often within thirty feet or so of the concrete embankment on which I stood.  I agonized over them.  I inspected every feather.  I begged them to fly so I could see the diagnostic wing stripe.  But they just swam slowly about as if they didn’t care what I thought they were.

I finally saw one male fly a short distance (after I flushed it), and got a pretty good look at the stripe extending most of the way down the wing.  I concentrated on this bird, and by the time we left I felt confident it was a Greater Scaup.  It had a round head, very white sides, and in the fading light I made out a greenish sheen on the head feathers.

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