Re: Where are the Lake Merritt Scaup?

Rosemary Johnson

I walked the lake yesterday. I found around 100 scaup total, most in small groups of 10-20. There were more ruddy ducks. I did find 16 goldeneyes. I didn't recall seeing any mergansers. I did see canvasbacks though.

Complete list at

On 02/16/2021 5:29 PM Jim Chiropolos <> wrote:

Work took me to lake Merritt today and I looked at the lake from two areas quickly and saw less than 60 scaup. Intrigued, I looked at ebird Lake Merritt sightings this month and I think the high scaup number (both lessor and greater) is 100 and for the winter 250 or so (one report - thanks Alex). The areas I looked included two of the three spots the large flock usually was. Past years, I think the lake, would hold a flock of 250 to 500 or so all winter (guess on my part)

So, I ask the question? Did I miss the big scalp flock since I did not scan the entire lake?

Or is the flock not there as the eBird reports - or do people just look for the barrows goldeneye and then are done - but has anyone birded the entire lake to establish the scaup flock size?
I worry that maybe one of the following could be occurring:
1. Lake Merritt is changing and the habitat is not holding scalp as it used to.
2. Scaup numbers overall are down - I don't bird the waterfront much these days so I do not have a sense of scaup numbers on the bay
3. Scaup are not using the lake in February

Does anyone have historical scaup flock sizes for lake merritt so we can track the flock size and where we are this year. Lake Merritt is one of the birding gems of the east bay and it would be good to know the scaup flock size as they are one of the "keystone" wintering species for the lake.

If anyone does a comprehensive scalp lake survey - can you send me your totals offline in response to this post? IT probably would be good to note it as a comprehensive lake survey in the ebird list comments - we need one of these at least every year and month if someone uses the lake as a local patch - its too far from home for me.....

I did see 8 red-breasted mergansers on the lake and I think this is a high end number for this species on the lake. I like seeing big scaup flocks on the lake in winter. This is where I learned to recognize greater scaup from lessor scalp by the nature center so it is a special place for me (and there still is a mixed group of greater and lessor scaup coming in for food.....).

Jim Chiropolos

( PS on the topic of decreasing duck numbers I did not look for Barrows Goldeneyes in the channel but it has saddened me how from over 10 or more using Barrows Goldeneye were present in the winter in the channel about 10 years ago we are maybe down to one pair or so with numbers seemingly decreasing every year . The Merritt channel human habitat is very different from 10 years ago...…)

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