LOOKING AT A LONE LESSER SCAUP
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
God … is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: … [and He] doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.[Job 9:2 & 9:4 & 9:10]
LESSER SCAUP male (photo credit: National Audubon Society)
Last Saturday (February 18th of A.D.2023), as I was birdwatching inside my wife’s car — while she was driving, so it’s okay that I was birdwatching! — I saw a lone Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis, a/k/a “Little Bluebill”) floating in the middle of a favorite pond (where I have often seen grackles in the past — see http://www.icr.org/article/grackles-gratitude/ — and appreciated that God could have made me a grackle!).
As I thought about this Lesser Scaup, and how I’ve often seen such scaups (and other ducks) on Texas ponds during winter, it seems that the occasion deserves a poetic memorial of some kind, such as a limerick.
Now, a few days later, here is that limerick, although admittedly the limerick calls the pond a “lake” (which some ponds are called, anyway, by Floridians), because it’s easier to rhyme “lake” than “pond” when composing limericks.
LESSER SCAUP (photo credit: swartzentrover.com / BirdPages)
LOOKING AT A LONE LESSER SCAUP ON A WINTER DAY
One cold wintry day, on a lake,
A scaup floated by — ’twas a drake;
Little bluebills eat seeds,
Clams, mussels, pondweeds;
I’m glad that, such ducks, God did make!
LESSER SCAUP female (L) & male (R)
photo credit: BirdwatchingDaily.com / David Mundy
Apparently, the anatid name “scaup” derives from a European word referring to shellfish (e.g., Noah Webster’s 1828 AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE notes that “scalp” comes from the Dutch schelp meaning “shell”), alluding to coastal bivalves (such as clams, mussels, and oysters), which are often eaten by these diving ducks. These wetland-frequenting ducks also eat shoreline vegetation, such as pondweeds, widgeon-grass, sedges, bulrushes, wild rice, wild celery, and other hydrophilic plants.
Generally speaking, scaups are migratory birds, so we Texans see them during the cold months of the year — however, there are some parts of North America where Lesser Scaups are seen year-round. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish a Lesser Scaup from a Greater Scaup (Aythya marila, a/k/a “Common Scaup” or “Bluebill”), from a distance — plus, to confuse identifications further, these scaups can hybridize with each other, as well as with the American Redhead (Aythya americana), Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), European Pochard (Aythya ferina), and Canvasback (Aythya valisineria). [See Eugene M. McCarthy, HANDBOOK OF AVIAN HYBRIDS OF THE WORLD (Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006), page 90.] But they are all diving ducks!
Greater Scaup between Lesseer Scaups (photo credit: reddit.com / birdpics)
So, as noted above (in the above limerick that is just “ducky”), I’m glad that, such ducks, God did make!