Partial Victory over the Duck

Far out on the waters of False Creek, beyond the reach of my longest lens, they lurk: little white diving ducks, with black masks and collars. Though I’ve yet to get close enough for a photo, I was able to jot down this sketch —

It's a bufflehead!

It’s a bufflehead!

— and thereby identify my sly duckish quarry: it’s a bufflehead. Bufflehead! There’s a funny word, and a new bird for my list. Happy holidays to me! (I’m feeling rather smug.)

Still, I must get a photo. A drawing’s all well and good, for identification purposes, but it’s awfully general, isn’t it? You scribble it down in the field; you take it home and finish it up, and somewhere between scribble and finish, you lose the particular bird you spotted, and end up with little more than a diagram of birdliness — a set of observations, neatly inked, which, put together, make a bufflehead, or a pipit, or a gull. I suppose I could’ve drawn the moment the bird broke forth from the water, or the moment it dove, or the little flappy dance it did on the ripples’ surface, but then I’d have lost something of the shape and the markings, and I might not have remembered it well enough to be certain of its identity, by the time I got home.

Ah, well. Enough complaints — I’ve found a new bird! In the days before cameras, having a new bird and a clear sketch of it would’ve made for a glorious day’s birding. I’ll call today’s find an analogue sighting, to be upgraded to digital at a time to be determined.

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