I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I think it’s just as useful to write what you want to learn. That’s part of why I enjoy writing about my birding experiences.

The day before Thanksgiving I walked to the pond down the street to see what kinds of ducks were around. Mostly Gadwalls and some Northern Shovelers. I saw a Lesser Scaup too, or so I thought. Had I looked closer I would have seen that it wasn’t a Scaup, but rather something new to me.

I posted some pictures and Ted commented and pointed out the error I had made. I consulted my Sibley guide and found that while Lesser Scaup and Ring-necks are similar, there are differences such as the white ring on the Ring-neck’s bill and the white spur on his side. Also the scaup has a grey back while the Ring-neck’s back is black.

I went back and compared pictures from a few weeks ago with a Lesser Scaup picture from last year and saw the difference.

Since I had never seen a Ring-necked Duck before (at least while knowing what it was) I walked back down today to see if there were any still there.

It’s a cold day today, but there were actually more ducks than usual. I didn’t count, but I suspect there were 20 or so Gadwalls and at least 10 Ring-necked Ducks.

Ring-necked Ducks in the pond down the street

Ring-necked Ducks in the pond down the street

I watched for awhile and tried a few pictures, but it was dark and so I had trouble getting a stable shot. Still, this one was passable and now that I know the field marks well enough to distinguish Ring-necks from Scaup, I’m confident in adding this new bird to my life list.

And then there’s the beauty of writing what you want to learn. I think I’ve learned a good bit about birds just from writing about what I’m seeing and experiencing in the field. Or in my backyard as the case may be. But, it’s easy to get overconfident and not notice what should be obvious (ie: that wasn’t a Lesser Scaup) and so the writing and posting what I think I know helps me nail down what I do know and still need to learn. I still have a lot to learn about ducks, for instance, which I’m discovering are kind of tricky.

Soon, the cold started to get to me and it was time to head home and feed the pups, but as I was going I noticed a buck nibbling the grass on the far side of the pond.

A White-tailed Deer checks me out

A White-tailed Deer checks me out

Amazing what else you can see when going out to look for birds. Of course, seeing deer around here isn’t that amazing. Had I been awake the other night I would have seen the one that came to our front porch to eat our plants.

For more bird blogging, be sure to check out I and the Bird #90.