Mistaken Identities

I wanted to take a second opportunity to photograph/identify the white-backed duck I saw at the Pier yesterday, so following work I raced the setting sun back to Piermont to see if I could locate them.  As I was headed up Ferry Rd, a birder with binoculars wrapped around her neck peered at me as we passed.  After the third glance she apologized, saying I looked like someone she knew.  I paused to ask her what she saw on the water.  She mentioned canvasbacks and mergansers.   As I didn’t have either on yesterday’s list, I was excited to get going.    I stopped at the area where I had seen the scaups yesterday, camera in hand, to take a closer look. Lo and behold, they were not scaups, but canvasbacks.  Today, the coppery color of the head was much more evident as was the slope from head to bill.

I’m fairly excited by the canvasbacks because (1) they are a new species for me.  (2) they are the first NJ species I “identified” by myself.  Yes, the woman mentioned there were canvasbacks, but she didn’t point to them as proclaim them canvasbacks.  I’ve semi-successfully birded in Costa Rica (twice) and SE Europe, but those were more exercises in walking around in perplexity.

100 Canada Geese
30 Mallards
30 Ruddy Ducks
2 Buffleheads
200 Ring-billed gulls (Yes, I counted.  I got 197 and rounded/gave up).
74 Canvasbacks

Walking the Pier

Last night after work, I drove down to Piermont, NY and walked along “the Pier” as it’s called for a bit of birding. I’ve been focused on my ducks lately and thought it would be a good place to test my skills.  I had a very good hour of birding in the last light!  The tide was coming in and near high tide; most of the birds were south of the pier.

120 Canada Geese – (est) they were along the marsh in Tallman.
1 American Black Duck
20 Mallards (north side of the pier, nestled in the shore)
4 Bufflehead
20 Ruddy Ducks
50 Ringbilled Gills
3 Mourning Doves
1 Downy Woodpecker
60 Lesser Scaup Canvasbacks

At least that’s my best guess.  I had seen Lesser Scaup last week at Round Valley. These were either Lesser or Greater Scaup.  They had the dark head with the lighter body and were diving.  Without the use of the Internet, ebird or my bird book I was able to get it to Scaup.  At the time I didn’t know to look at shape of the head for distinguishing between Lesser or Greater.    I forgot I had my camera with me until it was too dark to photograph them.    When I returned home, I hoped ebird could shed some light, but no one had reported scaup recently, and definitely not in the area of 60!   But that was a count not an estimate.


View south from the Pier towards NYC.

The Ruddy Duck ID almost fooled me.  I had the white check patch – which in comparison to the scaups I had just seen, it’s more like a white jaw patch (ignoring the fact that the jaw is really the bill).  But they were floating in a raft of 20, and towards the edge of the raft I caught sight of the longer tail.