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Birds in the vicinity of the southern end of open ice in Lake Champlain 
were very busy today.  Lots of rafting, feeding, moving about.  By 
midday and early afternoon the visibility became superb with calm 
waters, no heat distortion, and good sunlight.  I viewed from the 
Champlain Bridge for about an hour in late morning, and then again in 
the afternoon.  I viewed from DAR Park midday.

Highlights were two Redhead and one Long-tailed Duck males in bright 
plumages, plus one female Canvasback.  With the Redhead males was a 
female that I first thought was a Redhead, then concluded was a Scaup 
... but I didn't spend much time with it.   I'm going back tomorrow 
morning to try to relocate the bird and verify its species.

Most of the Common Mergansers were actively swimming back and forth over 
one area, which I presume was a feeding area.  Dozens to hundreds of 
birds would dive all at once; a wonderfully choreographed water ballet!  
This went on continuously, especially in the afternoon.

Other descriptive comments are in the lists below.

PS ... I also saw two groups of Mourning Doves numbering about 20 during 
the drive to and from the lake.

Happy New Year all!!

Ian
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Champlain Bridge, Addison, US-VT
Dec 31, 2011 10:16 AM - 11:22 AM
Protocol: Stationary

Comments:     No open water under bridge nor to its east and south.  Some shore ice to west and along east shore.  Open water to the north.  Additional rafts at distances to far to ID.
11 species

American Black Duck  3
Mallard  65

Common Goldeneye  515     In groups of different sizes, some out in open water, others near and along ice edge. Some well intermingled with other species.  Appears to be many more in more distant raft.  Could not find a Barrow's.

Common Merganser  935     Very actively diving; several hundred diving at a time.  Actively swimming back and forth across feeding (I presume) area.  Great Black-backed Gulls coming and going in feeding melee.  Total numbers may have been slightly larger.  Main group 600 or so birds.  Another group of 250.  Others in smaller groups and/or intermingled with other species.

Common Loon  2
Ring-billed Gull  17
Herring Gull  57
Great Black-backed Gull  32 Some loafing on ice by water, others working the Common Merganser feeding melee.
American Crow  4
Black-capped Chickadee  2
European Starling  17

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Champlain Bridge, Addison, US-VT
Dec 31, 2011 12:37 PM - 1:26 PM
Protocol: Stationary

Comments:     No open water under bridge nor to its east and south.  Some shore ice to west and along east shore.  Open water to the north.   Second visit of the day.  Certainly many of the birds are repeats from earlier, but there is much coming and going.  Superb visibility; absolute calm; complete absence of heat distortion.  Well lit by sun.  Was able to view rafts seen earlier in morning that could not be seen adequately then.
8 species

Mallard  69

Canvasback  1     In mixed raft of some 170 ducks comprised mostly of Common Goldeneyes plus Common Mergansers and Mallards.  About 900 feet from ice edge northwest of bridge.  Bird first observed slightly apart from the raft.  It then swam in and among the other birds, but did not interact with them in any noticeable way.  When in the densest part of raft it was hard to keep in view.  Diagnostic bill/head profile easy to discern when head and neck extended upright, but when the bird swam with head tucked in the bill shape was muted and difficult or impossible to see adequately.

Redhead  2     In close company with a female (of unsure species) loosely intermingling with Mallards and a few Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers in water at edge of ice.  Brightly colored.  I will attempt to relocate the female and determine if it is a redhead or scaup; I originally identified it as a Redhead.

Common Goldeneye  1500     One very large raft in north/south line well west of bridge.  Visibility so good I could scan for other species including Barrow's (at least with many of the birds).  Three smaller rafts closer and northwest of bridge.  Many local groups along the ice edge and intermingled with other species.  No Barrow's seen.

Common Merganser  1400     Very actively diving; several hundred diving at a time.  Actively swimming back and forth across feeding (I presume) area.  Great Black-backed Gulls coming and going in feeding melee.   Main group 1000 or so birds.  Another group of 220.  Others in smaller groups and/or intermingled with other species.  Groups of 60 to 100 often lifting up and repositioning.

Ring-billed Gull  12

Great Black-backed Gull  41     More than half loafing individually or in loose groups of 3-5 on ice by water, others working the Common Merganser feeding melees.

American Crow  2
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DAR State Park, Addison, US-VT
Dec 31, 2011 11:32 AM - 12:25 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.2 mile(s)
Comments:     Slight amount of shore ice.  Excellent visibility; calm, no heat distortion.
17 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  63
American Black Duck  5
Mallard  16
Ring-necked Duck  6     In with Scaup
Greater Scaup  30
Lesser Scaup  140
Greater/Lesser Scaup  470
Long-tailed Duck  1     Stayed on the fringe of Goose raft.
Common Goldeneye  122
Common Merganser  11
Ring-billed Gull  5
Herring Gull  15
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  3
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  46