The Core Team attended a Bat Mitzvah (Mazel Tov, Jessie!) in New York’s Putnam County this weekend. The reception, which was a total blast, was held in a venue overlooking lovely Lake Osceola. Good thing it was, since Mason spent a substantial portion of the day outside throwing rocks in the water!

Since I was outside and can’t help myself, I practiced some surreptitious avian identification. Birds like Red-tailed Hawk and Yellow-rumped Warbler were easy to ID even without optics. What got me were the ducks. Out there in the middle of the lake lived a mixed flock of waterfowl. Right off the bat I could tell that the birds were all smaller than Canada Geese and Mallards, which immediately made them interesting. I don’t get worked up over birds I see all the time but whatever was out there clearly didn’t fall into that category. Now that it’s November, the pool of potential waterfowl species in New York freshwater has increased tenfold.

A fellow birder and I puzzled over the distant ducks, straining to puzzle out distinguishing marks as our sons played on the lakeshore. We noted that some were divers rather than dabblers, that some bore white facial patches while others had white flanks. At times, individual ducks drifted tantalizingly close, but still remained frustratingly out of range. Maybe the flock included scaup or Ruddy Ducks, maybe mergansers of the Hooded variety. At the end of the day, I knew as little about those mystery ducks as when I arrived.

To my fellow bird watchers, I put the question: What do you do when you’re out and about? From what I gather, many of us are always watching, incessantly, unconsciously classifying and cataloguing. But some occasions just don’t lend themselves to (polite) birding. A person would look pretty foolish showing up for a wedding with a scope regardless of how productive the setting might be. So how do you handle yourself? Do you ignore avians out of hand? Drink so much that you don’t care? Maybe some of you stash a secret scope or mini-bins discrete enough not to ruin the lines of your tux. Share your experience…

Maybe Mergansers…
Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.