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Old Tuesday 30th October 2012, 21:29   #1
TringBirder
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"Lesser Scaup", Rostellan Lake, Co. Cork, Ireland

While looking at Birdguides today I looked at the Lesser Scaup pic and was a little surprised by the extent of black on the tip of the bill as I am sure it is too much black to be a pure Lesser Scaup. There are other things I didn't like but this was the one that stood out the most. See http://grahamsphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2...p-at-last.html for better pictures of the bird from the front. I have only seen a few Lesser Scaup but thought that the black restricted to the nail was a "must have" feature. Am I wrong or is this a hybrid?
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2012, 21:34   #2
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P.S. Same blog has new pics for today (30th Oct), which are even better see http://grahamsphoto.blogspot.co.uk/
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2012, 22:19   #3
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Without any further research on bill pattern variation, I would guess thus is an F1 hybrid but may be wrong. An F2 (ie 75% Lesser Scaup) seems unlikely this side of the water.

cheers, alan
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2012, 01:49   #4
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The black on the nail looks broad, and IMO there's something "wrong" about it for LS female. It does superficially look like an LS female, but I reckon it's a LS/Tufted kind of "mix-up..."
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2012, 03:26   #5
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I'd plumb for a LS x Ring-necked hybrid - something about the face that reminds me of the latter.
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Old Thursday 8th November 2012, 08:25   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TringBirder View Post
While looking at Birdguides today I looked at the Lesser Scaup pic and was a little surprised by the extent of black on the tip of the bill as I am sure it is too much black to be a pure Lesser Scaup. There are other things I didn't like but this was the one that stood out the most. See http://grahamsphoto.blogspot.co.uk/2...p-at-last.html for better pictures of the bird from the front. I have only seen a few Lesser Scaup but thought that the black restricted to the nail was a "must have" feature. Am I wrong or is this a hybrid?
Hi All,

As the finder of this bird I guess I should comment.

I am not sure what images you have seen or not seen, however, I would warn against basing your opinion on those produced By Graham. Whilst he is an excellent photographer, he was very unfortunate in that he only managed to photograph the bird whilst in a prolonged bout of diving. As the bird flattens it's head whilst doing so, you do not really get the best impression of it.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sean_cronin/

These produced by Sean Cronin are far more representative.

A good synopsis by Martin Scott of the features of Lesser Scaup is here http://www.albaecology.co.uk/birdsco...article2-3.htm.

As for the bill pattern, the bird is clearly still Juv/1st winter, and they often do have black bill tips (not just an isolated nail). A quick trawl of any photo database like pbase or flickr will yield dozens of shots of this age (though do be wary of the odd mis-identified scaup etc).

But here is a sampling.

http://www.jrcompton.com/photos/The_...s-JR1_8762.jpg

http://www.natureali.org/images/bird...10_AMS_438.jpg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/remask/5474488570/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65535777@N05/6824561025/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davao8/...n/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/revs45/...n/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/revs45/4446084349/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/babyorc...n/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimsullivan/3413207984/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gherringer/3120160504/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martytdx/403351615/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martytd...n/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebring_ca/6360194897/

The very same trawl will produce a myriad of head shapes, which should be stressed is not as intrinsic as some would have you believe. Hence the importance of assessing the birds head shape through it's full range of motion and postures.

Whilst it is entirely possible that I, and all the other observers who have seen the bird thus far could have made an error, I think anyone out there would be hard pushed to call a bird with such a distinctive head shape as below, an unadulterated Tufted Duck.

Comparison shot of Rostellan bird with Lesser Scaups taken in the U.S.

Regards

Owen
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Last edited by Pariah : Thursday 8th November 2012 at 08:35.
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Old Friday 9th November 2012, 09:14   #7
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This bird was looked for at Rostellan yesterday and appears to have moved on (the tufted duck flock it was with is still present).

A report of a Lesser Scaup at nearby Lough Aderra, on Wednesday was checked out also and nothing came of it.

It later transpired that the Wednesday report at Aderra was an Error on the part of the Irishbirding website and in fact referred to the Bird at Lough Gash, Co. Clare.

To my knowledge, none of the Observers who have seen this bird in the flesh have raised any concerns as to it being anything other than a Lesser Scaup. (Though I fully expect one individual to renege on his having put the news out as a Lesser Scaup).

This means that the last known sighting of this bird was Sunday 4th of November.

Having spoken to many (but not all) of those who have seen this bird, it remains a Lesser Scaup in their eyes.

Regards

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Old Saturday 10th November 2012, 12:28   #8
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With drakes in Clare, Kerry and now Westmeath, we may be looking at an influx. :)

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Old Sunday 11th November 2012, 17:49   #9
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Owen,

I agree that the bill pattern isn't a problem for Lesser scaup. However, one thing worries me a bit: there is not a single grizzled feather on the flanks or the upperparts. I'd expect a november bird to already have quite a few. Though perhaps a first-winter vagrant may lack this feature longer than normal.
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Old Sunday 11th November 2012, 18:17   #10
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http://www.irishbirdimages.com/pages...sserscaup.html

The juv on this page which I found in late November 2006 at knock lake was still essentially juvenile. Again if you search for images on databases you will find images of birds even into the new year which still remain pretty juvenile.

regards

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Old Wednesday 14th November 2012, 13:03   #11
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As some of you may be interested in another perspective on this bird I am copying a posting I made on the Irish Birdnet this morning, where a discussion on the Rostellan Aythya started a few days ago.


Being one of a number of people who, independently, raised questions about this bird's identity I'd like to offer a summary of what concerns me about it being recorded as a Lesser Scaup.

BILL PATTERN: Bill patterns of female (especially juvenile female) Aythya ducks often do not conform to what might be considered the 'text book' pattern. To a certain extent this can be attributed to individual variation, a large part of which at any given time is due to the differing rates at which individual birds develop an adult-type bill pattern. An added complication is that it can be extremely difficult to determine exactly what pattern (if any) there is on darker-billed birds, where the light striking the complex contours of the bill can obscure or obliterate subtle shades of lighter and darker grey, especially when the bill is wet.

It is not unusual for first-year Lesser Scaups to show dark either side of the dark nail to give a more fan-shaped dark tip. The almost 'dipped-in-ink' dark bill tip exhibited by the Rostellan bird may perhaps be matched by the odd Lesser Scaup, but it is much more usual in Tufted Duck.

HEAD SHAPE: While the 'classic' head shape of Lesser Scaup (with a high peak at the rear) is very characteristic, Tufted Ducks, perhaps especially young birds with still undeveloped but growing 'tufts' can present a real pitfall for the unwary. At the risk of over analysing the photos of the Rostellan bird, it looks to me as if the feathers of the rear crown have 'taken off' in advance of those of the forecrown, thereby producing a head shape that at times is very reminiscent of Lesser Scaup. A range of photos, however, indicate that at other times it is much less convincing than I'd expect in a true Lesser Scaup (and not just prior to diving activity, when all diving ducks have a tendency to flatten their crown feathers somewhat).

UPPERPARTS & FLANKS: I think the strong contrast between the uniformly dark upperparts, which show no trace of lighter vermiculation, and the much lighter flank panel is the most striking feature of this bird that is difficult to reconcile with Lesser Scaup. Of course, the vermiculation of the upperparts feathers that gives adult female Lesser and Greater Scaups their characteristic greyish-bodied look is not shown by juveniles of either species, but Lessers (especially) in juvenile plumage tend to have much less contrast between the flank and the upperparts than that shown by the Rostellan bird; such contrast is often seen in Tufted Duck. I would quite like to be proven wrong on this last point, since in recent years I have become concerned that a female 'Lesser Scaup' I observed on the North Slob, Wexford in January 1998 (which my coloured field-sketches indicate had what I now regard as a more Tufted Duck-like flank) may not have had quite as good credentials as we believed at the time! Unfortunately it was never close enough to photograph, so I have no means of verifying the accuracy of my field observations.

So, if the Rostellan bird is not a Lesser Scaup, is it a hybrid? Perhaps. Given the relative frequency with which hybrid Aytha ducks occur, and the likelihood that many less obvious second and subsequent generation back crosses may go unnoticed, it is very difficult to draw a clear line between the limit of variation in pure Tufted Duck, and unusual appearance that is attributable to some degree of hybrid influence. In order to make a case for the Rostellan duck being a hybrid there would need to be some firm indication of a trait that falls outside the range of variation that can be observed in (presumed) pure Tufted Ducks. I don’t see anything about this bird that I would consider outside the variation I see in Tufted Duck, but I could well be missing something.

My thanks to all the photographers who made available their photos of this bird, especially Mike O' Keeffe and Jim Wilson.

Regards,

Killian Mullarney
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Old Saturday 17th November 2012, 11:49   #12
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The Aythya conundrum in reverse

I've read this thread with interest, and was pleased to see Kilian's take on the Rostellan bird, since I am looking at it with the opposite focus (being in Texas) and would have found this bird to be odd-looking for most of the reasons mentioned by Killian.
It feels as though knowledge of Aythyas and variation within the expected forms (Lesser Scaup with us in Texas; Tufted Duck with you in the British Isles) has increased a great deal in the past c. 15 years, since Lessers started turning up in Europe. Thus I'd greatly value any new assessment of this Aythya from Texas way back in 1999. Sadly it was from the days of emulsion film, and the pics are way short of the modern standard. Personally I doubt a firm conclusion will be arrived-at, but given that Texas has no record of Tufted Duck or a hybrid thereof, I'd be very grateful for a review of this bird - thanks:
http://www.martinreid.com/Main%20website/aythya.html
NOTE: none of the text has been updated since the first few months after the sighting, so please forgive some if my dated comments/conclusions!

Last edited by upupa : Saturday 17th November 2012 at 18:38.
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