I can not tout the powers of observation enough. Last weekend I was sitting on the beach looking out at the Delaware Bay when I noticed three slightly unusual looking birds on the surf. I got my scope (actually my husband nicely went and got it for me) for a better look at these birds. After viewing them, I thought they looked like Scoters, though I was not sure whether Scoters were common to the DE Bay, or what type of Scoter they were, so I went back to the house for a bird book for a little closer observation.
After referencing the book, I came to the conclusion that I was looking at one male Black Scoter and one male Surf Scoter, and a Black/Surf Scoter Female. As I have stated, I am definitely a very amateur birder, so I did not want to tell someone to have them get excited by the wrong bird. I decided to just be happy that I thought I saw the Scoters because the markings were very distinguishable and in keeping with my bird book reference. The beak of the male Black Scoter had what I would consider "Black Lipstick" and there was a large black dot on the beak of the male Surf Scoter, and he had a very noticeable white eye. The bird book that lives at the beach is not the most accurate, so I did not even attempt to decide on what the female was. See the black "lipstick" in the photo above, and the dot on the beak in the photo below.
After I got home, I searched some more information about Scoter's and found this through the Cornell Ornithology Site:
A black-and-white seaduck common on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts in winter, the Surf Scoter has a boldly patterned head that is the basis for its colloquial name "skunk-headed coot."
A coastal duck that breeds in the subarctic, the Black Scoter is not well studied in North America. Only a few nests have ever been found.
Given the above descriptions, I decided that maybe I did not see the Scoter's and had probably misidentified some more common duck..........
Then an email popped up in my in-box from the DE-Birds listserve stating that someone had just seen Scoters on the DE Bay in Lewes, DE. Lewes is the next beach south of where I thought I had originally viewed the ducks, and this was only a day later. I was/and still am ecstatic that I actually saw these ducks and noted they were something different. I take this as proof that my sighting was confirmed
, perhaps someday I will feel confident in identifying these birds myself!! In the meantime, I'm going to stay observant and keep my bird book/scope/binoculars handy, because I never know what I may see.
At least this time, I was not driving a car, and stopping traffic to decipher the strange waterbird! There's a first time for everything!