Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A White-winged Scoter in Kalkaska County

It was an ordinary late September morning.

Pipits called overhead, undulating inexorably south. Kinglets squeaked in the pines. Blue Jays streamed across the unblemished sky. I had manhandled a kayak from the beach to Louie’s Pond in hopes of flushing a bittern—or heck, maybe a LeConte’s Sparrow—from the dense stands of rushes. No luck—but I couldn’t be disappointed with such an exquisite autumn day.

I dragged the kayak back to the beach and made the obligatory scan of Big Twin Lake, expecting only Ring-billed Gulls. I spotted a dark bird near the other side of the lake—an anomaly. I leaned against a tree to steady my arms. The bird looked chocolaty with a large white patch on the wing. White-winged Scoter?!

It was too distant to be sure. I glanced at my watch—10:00. I had to be at my teaching station in forty-five minutes, and in the meantime I had to pack a lunch, don my French fur-trader costume, and review the lesson plan. Crap, this will be tight, I thought as I jumped in the kayak and paddled like a caffeinated Red Squirrel toward the suspicious duck.

I made the half-mile in just over five minutes and found myself drifting alongside the culprit—which was, indeed, a White-winged Scoter. Shoot…wish I could document it, I lamented internally. Then I remembered the iPod in my pocket. The images are sub-mediocre but diagnostic.

There is only one other eBird record for the species in the county, a female at Rugg Pond in April 2014. Of course, Kalkaska County is woefully underbirded, so I imagine it is an intermittent visitor on the larger lakes.

Uncropped image--scoter off the bow! 

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