Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaup at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin on February 22, 2015

I birded the Milwaukee lakefront this morning and it was pretty much the winter ducks with mostly Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaups. I had hoped to find a couple of Red-throated Loons since some are being reported in Port Washington. One never knows what shows up at the lakefront here from hour to hour. Some open water in a few locations on the lakefront. Some of those locations were the Lighthouse at the Milwaukee River mouth, and Lakeshore State Park. These locations had nice numbers of Common Goldeneye and Greater Scaup, with a few Common Mergansers. South Shore Yacht Club had just a little bit of open water, just a few ducks were present there. I ran into Mike W and he showed me some of his hot birding locations along the Menomonee River downtown. They were slow today with a American Coot and Common Mergansers and the typical winter ducks. They have been great spots for Mike over the years and I’ll have to get them on my list of places to hit in the future. Best views for ducks today was Lakeshore State Park. It was very cold day today with a stiff wind right out of the NW in the big open park, sun felt good when you were out of the wind. Images were taken on February 22, 2015.

Greater Scaup, female chasing a Greater Scaup for a mussel.

Greater Scaup, female chasing a Greater Scaup, male for a mussel.

Greater Scaup, female chasing a Greater Scaup, male for a mussel.

Greater Scaup, female chasing a Greater Scaup, male for a mussel.

Pair of Greater Scaups, males on the run.

Pair of Greater Scaups, males on the run.

Greater Scaup, male

Greater Scaup, male adult

Great Scaup, female with a small stretch

Great Scaup, female adult with a small stretch

Great Scaup, female with a small stretch

Great Scaup, female adult with a small stretch

Common Goldeneye, male

Common Goldeneye, male adult

Common Goldeneye, female

Common Goldeneye, female adult

Common Goldeneye, female interacting with a Common Goldeneye, male

Common Goldeneye, female interacting with a Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Common Goldeneye, female interacting with a Common Goldeneye, male. Love the face of the Common Goldeneye male!

Common Goldeneye, female interacting with a Common Goldeneye, male, 1st year. Love the face of the Common Goldeneye male!

Greater Scaup, male

Greater Scaup, male adult

Greater Scaup just up from a dive but with no mussel.

Greater Scaup, male adult just up from a dive but with no mussel.

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head.

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head.

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head.

Greater Scaup, female preening

Greater Scaup, female preening

Pair of Greater Scaups, females just hanging out

Pair of Greater Scaups, females just hanging out

Greater Scaup, female

Greater Scaup, female

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year

Great Scaup, male, preening

Great Scaup, male, preening

Common Goldeneye, male, adult

Common Goldeneye, male, adult

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head.

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye, male 1st year, it appears the brown is starting to turn green on the head 3/20/15

Common Goldeneye and Greater and Lesser Scaup Ducks at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin December 7, 2014

Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee Wisconsin has been giving nice views of Greater and Lesser Scaups and Common Goldeneyes. Numbers are not high there in the park but a few to enjoy. The open water on the big lake has 1,000’s of these species right now along with and some Bufflehead, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers. The Snowy Owl over at the Lake Express Ferry was near its hangout, the culvert pipe coming out of the ground. It was inside it this morning, later in the morning it appeared to be outside of it next to it. It seemed like there were many spectators there waiting for close up views when I checked a few times this morning. Images were taken on December 7, 2014.

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Greater Scaup, female adult

Common Goldeneye, female

Common Goldeneye, male 1st winter

Common Goldeneye, male

Common Goldeneye, male 1st winter

Common Goldeneye, male

Common Goldeneye, male adult

Greater Scaup, female

Lesser Scaup, female adult

Greater Scaup, male

Greater Scaup, male adult, on the beach.

Greater Scaup, female

Greater Scaup, female adult, on the beach.

Greater Scaup, female left - male right

Greater Scaup adults, female left – male right, on the beach.

Greater Scaup, females watching a piece of ice go by!

Greater Scaup, females watching a piece of ice go by!

Common Goldeneye, male, looking at you!

Common Goldeneye, male adult, looking at you!

Greater Scaup, female

Greater Scaup, female adult

Common Goldeneye, male adult

Common Goldeneye, male adult

Common Goldeneye, adult female

Common Goldeneye, female adult

Greater Scaup

The mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront was pretty iced up along with the harbor. The little water that was open held a few Greater Scaups with nice views. They did some diving for mussels while I was there. Some of the other species present that day were 3 Red-throated Loons, White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers. Mostly a sun day but very cold. Photographs taken on February 23, 2014.

Greater Scaup - Male - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront, February 2, 2014

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup

Binomial name: Aythya marila

Category: Duck, Geese, and Swans

Size: 18” long, 28” wing span

Weight: 2.3 lb.

Habitat:  Typically found along the seacoasts on large lakes, ponds and sometimes bays. Breeding in the summer months in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia and far northern areas of Europe on the tundra and in the boreal forest regions. This ducks spends its winter months mainly along Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts, and also in Eurasia.

Diet: Dive for aquatic plants and parts such as seeds, leaves, stems, tubers and roots. Some of these plants are muskgrass, wild celery, pondweeds and sedges. Their diet also includes aquatic insects, clams, snails, mussels, and other crustaceans.

Nesting:  A nest is nothing more than a bowl shaped scrape in the ground typically lined with down and grasses. It is placed in taller grass areas not prone to flooding. An average of 9 olive-brown or pale greenish colored eggs are laid, and the female uses distracting displays to keep away artic foxes, ravens, red-tailed hawks, raccoons, owls and various gull species. Young leave the nest after incubation of 24-28 days as soon as they are dry after hatching. At that time female takes them to food immediately as they can swim and they feed themselves.

Cool Facts: Similar to the Lesser Scaup, accurate counts of this bird are not possible and both species are counted and then numbers adjusted.  Dives for its food, but eats it on the surface. To identify the Greater from the Lesser Scaups, sometimes field guides are needed as they are so similar. The black nail on the end of the bill is one of the easiest tips for ID of the Lesser as it is very narrow. On the Greater the black nail on the tip of the bill is wider. Recently a friend of mine observed a Snowy Owl capturing, killing and eating a Scaup species on Lake Michigan.

Greater Scaup - Female - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Male  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female walking on ice - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female walking on ice – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female walking on ice - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female walking on ice – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Male  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Red-throated Loons Milwaukee River Mouth, Milwaukee Lakefront, February 23, 2014

The area of the mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront produced 3 Red-throated Loons. Some of the other species present and photographed were White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Greater Scaups.

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Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

Binomial name: Gavia stellata

Category: Loons

Description: Dark gray feathers with a white throat and underparts, small black and white strips on the back of its neck.  In breeding season, the throat turns red, thus the name.  Small bill which fluctuates between black and dark gray.

Size: 21” – 27” long, 36” – 47” wingspan

Weight: 2.2 lbs. – 6.0 lbs.

Habitat: Large lakes, coastal shorelines, inland rivers, and reservoirs.

Diet: Primarily fish, occasionally crustaceans, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates, rarely plants

Nesting: Both parents build the nest out of a mudscrape lined with plant material and some feathers.  The male will stand guard while the female incubates the eggs (2 eggs per clutch).  Both parents feed and raise the young and participate in distraction displays to lure predators away from the nest.  Mating pairs will breed for life.

Notes: Unlike other loon species which must take flight by running on the surface of water, the Red-throated Loon can fly directly from land or water.  It also does not carry its young on its back.

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

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Female Common Goldeneye

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Male Common Goldeneye

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Male Red-breasted Merganser

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Female Red-breasted Merganser

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Male Greater Scaup

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Male Greater Scaup