As my friend and I approached the wetland, we could see activity near the water, mostly obscured by a perimeter of tall cattails. As we ascended an artificial rocky berm that formed the bounds of this human made wetland we could see an armada of floating ducks and we both responded with an excited “scaups!” and then danced around as if we had just scored a touchdown.
Shouting while birding is not recommended but neither of us had seen a Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), so it was hard to contain our excitement. There were around 400 of the birds paddling the small 20-acre wetland.
For those of us that maintain a “Life List” of bird species we have seen, checking one off is a big deal. For some it’s enough to simply see a bird fly over head but I like to watch and observe them, photograph them as much as possible. In doing so I notice different behaviors, color patterns and habitats and I have a record of when I took the picture. I often forget from season to season.
When I returned to the car something didn’t seem right. Scaups are found in Broward County, Florida from December through February. Males are black and white with a blue beak – check. Size of a Mallard – Check. I looked at the photos on the Audubon Guides Bird app. Uh-oh. Scaups are white and gray across the back. Time out. I scrolled down to similar species. We need a booth review. I began pouring over the dozens of pictures I had taken of the “scaups” and noticed these had a white ring on the bill and when the neck is outstretched has a burgundy ring around the neck.
Upon further review – the call is over turned – We have a Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)! A new species for my life list. Score!