Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Give 'Familiar' Birds a Closer Look; You Might Be Surprised

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Give 'Familiar' Birds a Closer Look; You Might Be Surprised

Article excerpt

Sometimes rare birds almost escape unnoticed, even mistaken for something common. So it was with Warrick County's first-ever white- winged scoters. Barb and Bob Lechner have lived nine years on 50- acre, mile-long Blue Lake in southwestern Warrick County. When most other lakes freeze over, Blue Lake's deep waters stay open, offering a haven for a wide variety of waterfowl. As a result, lakeside residents host an impressive number of feathered friends.

Like many couples, the Lechners tease each other, enjoying the fun. One recurrent topic involves American coots, duck-like birds that regularly winter on Blue Lake. Bob makes disparaging remarks about Barb's attraction to what she calls her little darlings. He calls them carps with wings. "They're trash birds," Bob teases. Barb just grins.

So last week when they spotted some black ducklike creatures, the banter began. "Ah, the first little darlings of the season! Finally!" Barb announced. But when she focused her binoculars on three bobbing together, she gasped. "Oh, wait. They're not coots."

Bob checked and agreed. These odd ducks were puzzling.

The Lechners began putting the puzzle pieces together. Barb started calling out field marks while Bob grabbed the field guide. He asked; she verified. Duck? Yes. Diving or dabbling? Diving. What color? Black. All over? No; white on wings and face. Bill? Odd looking, not like our normal ducks. Really? Really.

Only one illustration in the field guide matched exactly the birds they watched: white-winged scoter. But the field guide described scoters as sea ducks, saltwater birds, waterfowl that breed throughout Alaska into central Canada, wintering at sea along both coasts. So scoters would be unlikely. But what else could they be?

That's when Barb's email popped up in my mailbox. "Is scoter possible? …

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