Saturday, March 1, 2014

CM Ducks!

It's CM Ducks as in "See them ducks!"  A great way to break free of winter's sparse wildlife is to find a wintering spot for waterfowl. They get concentrated and sometimes pretty ornery when food is involved.  So, with a good friend, I made a trip to get some practice on ducks. 

The majority of the ducks were Canvasbacks with their rich red heads and Scaup with their dazzling yellow eyes. Both are diving ducks and they can really stir up the water when they all begin to dive.

The Scaup also has a fine pattern on its back that is striking.

There is a subtle green cast on the head when the sun hits it at an angle. The black stripe on the tip of the blue beak is a good feature to remember when comparing with other ducks.

There are two ducks that have the rusty red head, and that can be a source of confusion.  The Canvasback has a distinctive wedge shaped beak that is helpful when the bird is a female or a molting male. The duck in the left foreground is one such Canvasback.  (You can see from the splashing water what a melee ensues when there is food available.)

The other red-headed duck I observed is, appropriately, the Redhead.  It's another elegant duck with a brilliant eye and a black tip on the beak.  They were a little fewer in number.

One of my favorite ducks is the American Widgeon.  Only the Wood Duck rates more beautiful and interesting for me. In both of these, the soft little whimpers they make to communicate are part of what charms me. They are also very shy and hard to approach.

This male in the foreground seemed to be speaking to nearby males as he protected his female. Beyond the photography, I find the interactions very entertaining. Male Widgeons seem to get carried away to the degree that they will attack Canvasbacks and Scaup that drift near their female.  Sort of funny to see this little duck taking on the much larger Canvasback.  They all yield to the attack and retreat.

Between two males, there is often no retreat as was the case with these two male Mallards. The conflict consists mainly of one grabbing the other by the nape of the neck and attempting to hold it  under water. The second phase often becomes an unceremonious retreat with the victor latching on to the opponent's tail feathers.

Each year, I try to make a trip in late winter to photograph ducks. It gets me charged up for spring when the bird migration erupts. If I can function efficiently when it is around 10 to 20°F and breezy, then spring will be a snap. On the plus side, there are no mosquitoes to contend with.

No comments:

Post a Comment