Friday, January 10, 2014

Cold snap and winter ducks close to home

People who like to go look for birds have it pretty good these days.  There are a lot of ways to hear about good sightings.  Most states (I think every state, but I'm not sure) have an email listserv for posting sightings.  When I'm visiting other parts of the country, I'll hang out on the appropriate listservs for a few days prior to see if anything interesting is afoot.

So I've seen a few listservs in action and I happen to think Pennsylvania's is excellent.  A lot of traffic and a lot of good information.  You can access it here.  I just looked, and 16 messages went out so far today, covering all sorts of birdy topics.

All of that is a long way of saying that on Wednesday, I saw a PA Birds message about some interesting ducks on the nearby Susquehanna River.  With the latest cold snap, the river has mostly frozen over, except for a smallish area at the river park in Wrightsville.  

With my work schedule, getting up for first light on Thursday was my only chance to see the river during daylight hours.  I found the ducks, but got a spectacular sunrise over the ice in the bargain.

With so little open water, ducks were concentrating on this patch, maybe 2-3 dozen all told.  Most were common mergansers or scaup, probably lesser scaup.  Here's a common merganser male. 

Colors deepened as the sunrise progressed.  Common mergansers were floating in the part of the river colored by the sun.

I don't have a picture, but a small group of tundra swans were at the far edge of the free water.  At one point, a bald eagle made a few lazy swipes at a ring-billed gull just behind the swans.

A drake and hen Redhead were with the larger group of Scaup.  There were also about a half dozen Common Goldeneye.  These were a life bird for me - it's not easy to get those this close to home anymore!

It's obvious who the Redhead is here.  The Common Goldeneye is in the back, partly on its side.

I saw a white-winged scoter just when the light was bright enough to pick out detail.  I couldn't relocate it.  I enjoy seeing them - they have an unmistakable look, and are relatively rare on these inland waters.  Here's one I saw at Barnegat Lighthouse jetty in New Jersey in 2010, my first run-in with one, and a very patient one at that.

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