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Field Notes No. 13 (Dec 15, 2011)

December 15, 2011, 9-10 am

Cold, cloudy lower 30's, strong west wind, white caps on lake. Several warm days this week has melted nearly all of the ice in both lakes.

I walked around the north lake this morning. I saw one small duck fly over, probably a Bufflehead. Canada Geese were coming in from the fields and landing on the west end of the south lake. I never cease to get a thrill to see them set their wings against the wind and glide down without a beat. One flock of about 30 came in high and had to circle a couple of times to lose altitude.

Three Bald Eagles (two adults and an immature) were soaring over the Skunk River to the east of the park. As I watched they moved towards the southeast using the wind. A Red-tailed Hawk flew toward the northwest.

Wolf sent me a digital photo of a male Greater Scaup in eclipse plumage. After breeding in the summer, waterfowl undergo a complete molt during which they become flightless. The ! new feathers that come replace the old during this molt is referred to as the eclipse plumage. In males, the eclipse plumage resembles that of a female. A second molt occurs in the fall and winter that will result in their spring breeding plumage. Both Wolf and I had seen the Greater Scaup several times during the last week but we could not get a definitive identification. Most of the time it was accompanying a female Lesser Scaup. As you might expect, these two species are very similar in appearance. The Greater Scaup is a bit larger, has a larger bill, more white on the trailing edge of the wing (only seen when in flight) and the head is dark purple rather than dark green. However, head color is often difficult to discern unless the light is just right. Dr. Steve Dinsmore confirmed the identification after seeing Wolf's photo. Greater Scaup are uncommon visitors to Iowa; Wolf has recorded it only one other time at Hayden Park. These are the kind of sightings that m! ake bird watching so interesting.

Here is a list of waterfowl sighted since December 1: Canada Goose, Cackling Goose, Snow Goose, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, Long-tailed Duck, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter. American Coot and Crested Cormorant were also seen.

The heritage stone for Bohumil Shimek has been returned to its place on the west end of the causeway. Someone discovered a misspelled word and it was redone. Also, the inuksuk that was vandalized last month is being repaired by the city.

Erv Klaas