Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lake Merritt Duckstravaganza!

Ducks! Ducks! Ducks!
Pictured above: A Chaos of Ducks
Blog readers, I promised you I would blog more ducks this year, and have I got ducks for you today! Let's visit the ducks pictured above and get to know them a little better. All pictures taken in beautiful Oakland California by your amateurnithologist.
Largest diving duck in North America
A bit vicious when it comes to getting what he wants

Lesser Scaup aka Little Bluebill (probably)
Named, perhaps, after the noise the female makes
Good at creative pursuits. A natural talent

Greater Scaup aka Bluebill (perhaps)
Named, maybe, after the Scottish word for the food he primarily eats
Smart and athletic. Works hard to get to where he is

Can you tell these two ducks apart? Neither can anyone else, but they are, apparently, different. Here are some of the nonsense things people will assure you will help you tell them apart. The greater one is larger, has a rounder head, and has brighter white sides. Me, I took these pictures while the ducks were in breeding season, so I'm going based on the sheen of their plumage. The Greater Scaup, it is said, has a slightly green tint, as compared with the Lesser's purple. But no one knows, really.

Mallard aka. Wild Duck
The wild ancestors of most modern domestic ducks
Gregarious. Has big get-togethers that go smoothly

Ruddy Duck
A major pest species in Europe, currently being culled in Great Britain. Messing up all sorts of local duck ecology by his, quoth wikipedia, "aggressive courting behavior and willingness to interbreed".
Thinks it's very funny when people get mad. Winks a lot.

Tufted Duck
The real prize of a birding trip to Lake Merritt. A native of Siberia, he really shouldn't be here in California. There's only ever one sighted, but he shows up more years than not. A recent local birding email thread turned up sightings from as early as 1970. So either this is a very old duck, or there are a few of them, or the duck is immortal somehow.
Has a deep love for American culture and a funny sounding accent. No one makes fun of him for it, though, it only makes him more appealing and fun to be around.

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