It is soooo exciting to see something in your area that you had only ever seen before in the field guides.
If the bird had stayed sleeping, with head tucked under wing, there had been no wind, or if I didn't have just this ever so slight hint of competitiveness in me, we likely would not have picked this bird out. All these were in our favour, though, as an average birding afternoon suddenly turned amazing!
I was paying particular attention to all scaupy, ring-necked things because my birding companion had shown a particular talent of late of being able to quickly pick out single Greater Scaup from floating flocks of its Lesser buddies and I was hoping to get one first.
Our usual view point above the lake, at 200 meters to the water, is still a bit of a stretch for my battered up scope so when I saw those long plumes fluttering in the breeze, a few blinks were needed before I could admit to myself I may actually be seeing a, what's that called? Oh yeah, TUFTED DUCK. Holey Gaia!
This 'record' photo, taken by G. Ross, catches the plumes pretty well! And, is that a female just in front of it? We didn't notice her in this view. We were so fixated on keeping track of the male, alternately sleeping and preening, as it steady drifted downwind and further away. All the while Scaup, American Wigeons, Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks swam slowly this way and that, and all around him. And we were also trying to pick out another male, to no avail.
When he preened, and sometimes, as he angled to the wind while sleeping, his plumes fluttered or whipped straight up or curved delicately in silhouette. Very pretty. And the line between his white sides and dark back is such a beautiful curve, one created by nature but so perfect in design, even those painstakingly copied by all engineers and artists are wanting and his envied.