Today I went to Peniche to do some seawatching. I was expecting it to be weak because of the strong N-NE winds, and in fact, I've spent very little time looking at the sea. As a result I only saw a couple of Kittiwakes and Razorbills.
Before I left Peniche, I thought of having a look at the sewage treatment pond, just outside Peniche, a classic spot to shelter some waterbirds in harsh conditions like today. At a distance, with binoculars, I spotted two diving ducks with some mallards.
I set the scope and had a closer look at those two interesting visitors. I immediately noticed the head shape, peaked at the back, and the paler mantle, not contrasting too much with the flanks. The day was very windy and overcast, so getting photos was quite challenging. The best option was to digiscope images with my phone and the Swarovski atx 95mm, as the light was too poor to use the bridge camera.
Photo 1 -Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). 1cy Male (left) and female of unkown age (right).
The two individuals were quite different. The one on the left (Photo 1) is a 1cy male. The bird showed newly moulted grey feathers on the mantle, mixed with juvenile brownish feathers and a yellowish iris. The bird on the right, a female, was hard to age safely. The iris was dark-brown, typical of juveniles, but some older females can have a dark iris too.
Photo 2 -Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). The head profile is typical on both birds - peak on the back of the head.
Photo 3 -Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). Note how the head shape changes with posture. The male head, almost ready to dive, looks more rounded, recalling that of a Great Scaup.
Photo 4 -Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). Note the "mottled" pattern of the male in the mantle and flanks.
Photo 5 -Lesser Scaups (Aythya affinis). Female showing the wing pattern with the pure white coloration restricted to secondaries. Primaries exhibit greyish white infusions.
A short video with different clips, notice the head profiles changing with the angle.
On the morning of 28 October, I did visit Peniche to do my routine seabird count and checking a few spots for rare birds. When I was checking the fields around the sewage treatment pond, I noticed on the horizon a flock of around 200 Golden plovers, flying in circles above the fields that connect Peniche to Baleal. With time constraints I had to go home, but it stayed in my mind that I had to return and check that flock a little closer. And so I did, that afternoon.
The flock was very mobile and did fly around for some time before it settled in the middle of the open field, feeding very actively. I sat on the slope, and with my eye on the scope, I start checking every bird.
What a joy to see so many Golden plovers, different ages, and moult progressions. About 20min into the flock, there was an obvious juvenile American Golden plover! A bold white supercilium, greyish upperparts and greyish-brown underparts and more athletic. Was interesting to notice the feeding action compared to the European Golden-plovers, the bird did run a little more while feeding, making it easy to track among the busy flock. A few minutes later the bird took off and, with my zoom down to the 30x, I could appreciate the brownish underwing pattern contrasting with the European Golden plovers.
A few birds caught my attention, but I could never be sure of their Id and definitely, more work should be done with this flock.
Birding Portugal & Spain - Blog
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I was born in west Portugal and began birding at the age of 11. I have particular interest in bird ringing (banding), moult, seabirds and rarities. Currently I work as a guide for Birds & Nature Tours.
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