• White-winged Scoter

    Common NameWhite-winged Scoter
    Scientific NameMelanitta fusca
    Type of ReportRare Species
    Date of Observation03/26/2018
    Number Observed76
    Reporting Observer's NameJames Osborn
    Mailing AddressO-2 Grandview Drive
    South Burlington, VT 05403
    United States
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    EmailEmail hidden; Javascript is required.
    Date Completed03/27/2018
    Names & Emails of Other Contributing Observers

    None.

    Latitude of Observation0
    Longitude of Observation0
    Place NameCharlotte Town Beach
    TownshipCharlotte
    CountyChittenden
    Vermont eBird Checklist URLebird.org
    Time of Day06:22 PM
    Length of Time Observed31 minutes for the entire flight to move North past my position
    Maximum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)1200
    Minimum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)1200
    Noteworthy Weather Conditions

    Sun was setting. Birds were backlit which heightened the “white scapulars” but eliminated all other fine detail. They were “powering” through a light headwind over the open Lake.

    Optical Equipment Used for Observation

    Zeiss 8X42 Binoculars

    Observer’s Previous Acquaintance With This or Similar Species

    Extremely familiar with this Species. Favorite duck. I live on the coast of Rhode Island when I’m not here in Vermont. This Species is very common off the Beach right in front of our house.

    I certify that that attachments included with this report were captured during this observation event​​.
    Description of Habitat

    Open Lake off Charlotte Town Beach. Other species present included Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck, and Canada Goose.

    Behaviors Observed

    The birds were flying fairly low over the water in a “string formation”. As they “powered” up the Lake they made several “spiraling” moves which allowed individual birds to take the lead in the flock. This made the “string” look like a moving snake. The birds never varied from this formation. All birds showed rapid wingbeats and were moving very quickly. Their flight was straightforward. The wind didn’t seem to be a problem for them.

    Description of Vocalizations

    None Heard.

    Verbal Narrative & Description of Observation

    I first observed this Species “powering” up the Lake about 30 feet above the water at 6:22 PM. There were 29 birds in a “string” formation moving North very fast up the Lake. The birds appeared all black except for the big white rectangular wing patches. I recognized this species immediately because it is my favorite duck. I grew up with this Species on the coast of Rhode Island and I have seen 1000’s of them in my 57 years of birding. The flight continued for 31 minutes. Counts were as follows: 6:22 PM (29), 6:25 PM (11), 6:35 PM (5), 6:40 PM (4), 6:40 PM (7), 6:41 PM (2), 6:45 PM (12), 6:46 PM (2), and 6:53 PM (4). All of the birds appeared to be tracking up the Lake on the same exact line. All of them were flying in the “string” formation. All of them showed a “white speculum”. These birds were moving fast. All of the groups stayed low over the Lake. I kept watching them until they disappeared from sight.

    Relative Size & Shape

    Medium-sized bird. Long body shape.

    Head

    You couldn’t make out any fine detail on the head of the bird due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    Feet & Bill

    You couldn’t make out any color on the bill due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    Upper Back

    You couldn’t make out any fine detail on the upper back due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    Lower Back & Rump

    You couldn’t make out any fine detail on the lower back and rump due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    Wings

    The wings were all black with large white patches in the secondaries. Very visible in flight.

    Breast, Belly, Flanks, Under Tail Coverts

    You couldn’t make out any fine detai on the body of the birds due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    Tail

    The tail was not distinguishable from the body due to the distance from the bird and the backlighting. Sun angle was a problem.

    IMPORTANT: What similar species were eliminated when making the identification and how was this bird different?

    Black Duck - eliminated by the big white wing-patches and somewhat smaller size. Also, I have never seen American Black Ducks fly in a “string” formation with each bird following directly behind the bird in front of it, and remaining that way.

    Black Scoter - eliminated by larger size and the white wing-patches. Black Scoters are smaller and more compact.

    Other Notes & Comments

    Age and sex of these birds was not determined.

    I was very surprised to see this Species in these numbers. This is extremely unusual, to put it mildly. Seeing one or two birds would have been reasonable. This Species is around at the moment, and has been seen fairly recently farther South in Lake Champlain. However, seeing 76 of these birds moving through was extraordinary. Nine separate groups passing through over a 31-minute span was crazy. I can’t account for it. It makes no sense. I have absolutely no explanation for this. All I do know is that that the 76 birds that I saw had to be White-winged Scoters. They couldn’t have been anything else.

    This report was written from notes taken:During the Observation

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