Tag Archives: Maryland

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid – Maryland

Before looking for uncommon or rare birds, one needs to become familiar with the common species. When you know the common birds well, uncommon birds will stand out, especially if you put the time in to find them. In this case, Tim Carney, an avid Maryland birder, found what originally appeared to be a Tufted Duck. Before pulling the whistle on this rarity, he studied it further and suspected that it may be a hybrid since the back wasn’t dark black. After sending photos to experts (other Maryland birders and the fine folks at eBird), the ending consensus is Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup. I’ll try and walk through some of the key identification points accompanied by a suite of Tim’s photos.

From this angle and distance, the bird looks decent for Tufted Duck, but notice the paleness to the back (towards the head) and the flanks are kind of dingy. A pure Tufted Duck would have a dark gray back and pure white sides. Lesser Scaup features in this photo include a small bill and the head is not rounded, as it would be in a Tufted Duck. In all three photos, you can see grayish back and non-rounded head.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

In this photo series (bird is near the center) the dark gray back, rather than dark black is evident. Since the bird is tucked, other features are not obvious, but this just shows that even with a sleeping bird, diligently studying the characteristics in view can lead to a conservative identification. In this situation, it definitely does not look right for Tufted Duck, but I would wait until it was untucked before pulling the trigger on an ID.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup Hybrid in Maryland on December 7, 2015. Photo by Tim Carney.

This hybrid has only been recorded in eBird on two prior occasions, one from Colorado in 2012 and another from Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015.

eBird range map for Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup hybrids. Credit: eBird.org

eBird range map for Tufted Duck x Lesser Scaup hybrids. Credit: eBird.org

Check out the following links for photos and information on Tufted Duck x scaup hybrids.

Bird Hybrids: Tufted Duck x Greater Scaup
Long Island, New York – February 24, 2002
Vancouver, British Columbia – March 15, 2007
Notes on Scaup x Tufted Duck Hybrids

Also, I found this interesting excerpt from McLaren and Nova Scotia Bird Society (2012) regarding Tufted Duck x scaup hybridization in Nova Scotia:

Hybridization with Greater Scaup is known in Iceland, and three or four such hybrids have been reported here, two photographically confirmed.

Male hybrids with Greater Scaup have stubby tufts and vermiculations (narrow, wavy barring) that may be hard to see on the dark grey back; female hybrids would be more difficult to identify.

Tufted Duck and Tufted Duck x scaup hybridization identification. Credit - McLaren and Nova Scotia Bird Society (2012).

Tufted Duck and Tufted Duck x scaup hybridization identification. Credit – McLaren and Nova Scotia Bird Society (2012).

As birders, we should always be on the lookout for birds like this, because hybrids can give us insight into breeding dynamics of closely related species and the identification challenge is always fun!

Literature Cited

McLaren, I. A., & Nova Scotia Bird Society. (2012). All the birds of Nova Scotia: Status & critical identification. Kentville: Gaspereau Press.

Brown Booby – Baltimore, MD

I was fortunate to catch up with the adult Brown Booby in Baltimore, Maryland a few months ago (September 27 to be exact – eBird Checklist). The adult is still being seen this week, which is surprising in itself. Will it ever leave? Emily Dunn, Matt Boone, and I saw the bird from the Baltimore Water Taxi Purple Line, where the boat captain was kind enough to motor slowly passed. Here are two of my favorite shots of the bird.

Brown Booby in Baltimore, Maryland on September 27, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brown Booby in Baltimore, Maryland on September 27, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brown Booby in Baltimore, Maryland on September 27, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Brown Booby in Baltimore, Maryland on September 27, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The Tamest Gull

The gulls in the old Best Buy parking lot at Hunt Valley Town Centre in Baltimore County, Maryland are extremely tame. In fact, they are the tamest gulls that I have ever seen. Of course, that could be a result of constant hand-feeding from gull hungry birders looking for something EPIC or MEGA if you will.

You pull up and wind down your window and the action commences. If you lay down a slick of popcorn or chips the Ring-billed Gulls are all over it. Every time you move your hand or shuffle something around in the car the gulls go NUTS. The gulls are basically in love with the human hand which feeds them goodies. Popcorn, BBQ chips, waffle fries from Chick-fil-a, or what have you.

Ring-billed Gull at Hunt Valley Town Centre in Baltimore County, Maryland on 28 February 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

When it comes down to it, you have to feed the gulls. If you don’t, you feel guilty and you will probably miss something EPIC or MEGA in the flock. It’s easy. Just stop by the nearest Wawa or Chick-fil-a and pick up something tasty. Go the the gull spot and start unloading your arsenal. Eventually, something good will turn up. I was at this same spot a couple of months ago and only saw Ring-billed Gulls. I was using plain Lay’s or LAME potato chips and nothing good showed its face, unfortunately.

Well, my reason for going there in the first place was for an adult Black-headed Gull. For my second go, I spiced it up a bit and chose some plain popcorn and BBQ chips. Alright, I went through the bag of popcorn and something magical happened.

This HAPPENED: The TAMEST Gull –

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

And a mug shot for good measure:

Black-headed Gull - Maryland

It was a lifer and it was EPIC. Although it wasn’t much of a chase, it was much better than the DIPPING session I had the last time. The bird was extremely TAME. Parking lot gulls are super TAME.

I dipped on the Black-headed Gull, but these Ring-billed Gulls provided good photo opps.

After a whole bag of potato chips and no Black-headed Gull, I gave up and decided to photograph the growing flock of Ring-billed Gulls at Hunt Valley Towne Centre in Baltimore County, Maryland.

After the first round of chum, AKA delicious potato chips, this bird walked right up to the car window. We had a staring match, and I won.

I guess this one did something illegal and posed for a mug shot.

This one ate too many chips and had to take a rest. At this point, I was ready to do the same.

This bird stood out among the others, but is still a regular ol’ Ring-billed Gull and nothing special.

For some reason, this bird was raiding the dumpster at the restaurant next door and was throwing this bone up and trying to catch it in it’s bill. It failed multiple times.

This last shot is amusing. I don’t know what this bird is trying to choke down, but it had a tough time. Possibly a bird, a plane, or just a piece of bread. Who knows.

Little movement throughout the region last night

Maryland and Delaware

There was little movement throughout the region last night. The radar was relatively quiet throughout much of the night and if anything birds moved south out of the area. Migration appears to be slowing down, but we may get another push of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Sparrows before it’s all said and done.

Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized animation.

For more on migration throughout the country, check out these sites:

United States – BirdCast
Northeast – Nemesis Bird by Drew Weber
Pac NW – Birds Over Portland by Greg Haworth
New Jersey – The Birdchaser by Rob Fergus

Check out the Migration Tools on the right sidebar for information that I use to predict migration conditions and analyze the radar. I will generally be posting before the radar is up, which is usually around 6:30 am. Check back then to view the base reflectivity and velocity for the area. Thanks to Drew Weber for setting me up with the radar files and helping with the coding!

Please post your sightings and any feedback in the comments section! Thanks!

Decent movement throughout the region last night

Maryland and Delaware

The radar showed a moderate movement throughout the region for most of the night. It appeared that more birds were leaving than coming in, but birding should be good today! Is there any day that birding isn’t good?

Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized animation.

For more on migration throughout the country, check out these sites:

United States – BirdCast
Northeast – Nemesis Bird by Drew Weber
Pac NW – Birds Over Portland by Greg Haworth
New Jersey – The Birdchaser by Rob Fergus

Check out the Migration Tools on the right sidebar for information that I use to predict migration conditions and analyze the radar. I will generally be posting before the radar is up, which is usually around 6:30 am. Check back then to view the base reflectivity and velocity for the area. Thanks to Drew Weber for setting me up with the radar files and helping with the coding!

Please post your sightings and any feedback in the comments section! Thanks!

Strong, steady movement all night

Maryland and Delaware

There appeared to be a strong, steady movement of birds throughout the region all night. Birding should be good anywhere you go today! It looked like Cape May, both the Morning Flight and Hawk Watch, had a great day yesterday, and I would bet today would be just as good! GO BIRDING!

Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized animation.

For more on migration throughout the country, check out these sites:

United States – BirdCast
Northeast – Nemesis Bird by Drew Weber
Pac NW – Birds Over Portland by Greg Haworth
New Jersey – The Birdchaser by Rob Fergus

Check out the Migration Tools on the right sidebar for information that I use to predict migration conditions and analyze the radar. I will generally be posting before the radar is up, which is usually around 6:30 am. Check back then to view the base reflectivity and velocity for the area. Thanks to Drew Weber for setting me up with the radar files and helping with the coding!

Please post your sightings and any feedback in the comments section! Thanks!