Although a much fuller report will be published later, the following is intended as a quick first-hand account of the discovery of the ROK’s first confirmed Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis.
On February 14th, following heavy snow along the east coast and under still-overcast skies, our group (comprised of 13 highly experienced birders) visited Gyeongpo Lake in Gangneung to see if the recent harsh weather might have resulted in some weather-driven displacement. Soon after arrival, several in the group checked through the flock of duck on the small remaining area of open water. Aleksi Lehikoinen was the first to pick up an odd-looking aythya,which appeared at long range to be more heavily vermiculated on the upperparts than the other scaup. With Dr. Hannu Huhtinen, he strongly suspected that the bird was a Lesser Scaup. They alerted others in the group, who also noted several other features in support of their proposed identification (including slightly smaller size; a slightly tufted rear to the head; a more delicate bill etc). After 30 minutes or so, the bird started to preen and showed its upperwing clearly (captured in the image below by NM) helping to rule out hybrid origin and to confirm the identification. Adequately documented with images, Lesser Scaup will therefore be added to Category One of the Birds Korea Checklist during the next update. This is the second North American duck species to be added to the national checklist this winter (with Bufflead Bucephala albeola also first-found in the winter of 2012 / 2013).