Monday, March 25, 2013

Everything is Just Ducky
at Great Meadows

As you wander around Great Meadows you will encounter a number of different species of ducks.  They are pretty spectacular all decked out in their spring breeding plumage.

There seems to be an direct relationship between how colorful the duck is and how skittish they are.  Ring-necked ducks are pretty mello and laid back.  They are often seen cruising in small groups, especially in the lower impoundment.

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Ringed-neck

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Female Ringed-neck

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;

Click on the image to see a larger version to see where they get their name

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Ring-necks in flight

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Female stretching

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Thankfully he's fast, lest she drown


On the other hand, the pretty boy Wood Ducks are some of the most skittish ducks at Great Meadows.  On rare occasions you will see them in open water close to shore.  More commonly, you will hear them flying away as they see you before you see them.  Keep your eyes pealed for them swimming in among the reeds.  Don't be surprised if you do see one sitting in a tree.

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Wood Duck

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Side by side comparison of male & female Wood Ducks

Ducks are divided into divers and dabblers.  Among the diving ducks that you will regularly see at Great Meadows are:

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Goldeneyes

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Bufflehead

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male & Female Bufflehead

Our most common dabbling duck is the mallard. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of ducks ... they get no respect, at least around here where they are so plentiful. Elsewhere birders would find the male's iridescent green head quite attractive.

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Mallard

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
I forgot I had taken this shot, until I got home and was reviewing the photos. I like how it looks like the female Mallard is shaking off the water like a dog

One of my personal favorites is the Hooded Merganser. Both the male and females have fancy head crests. The male's is black & white design, while the female's is a plain but pretty cinnamon color. Since they are diving ducks these crests are often wet back, but keep a watch out for when they display the full crest.

These is a pair that can often be seen near the observation deck. They appear to be getting somewhat habituated to people, so they have been swimming closer to shore....of course that may also be because they feed in shallower water.

Hopefully they will decide to raise a family here this year. Since they are cavity nesters pay attention to our many dead trees, or perhaps they will set up housekeeping in one of the many duck boxes.
Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male & Female Hooded Merganser

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Male Merganser showing off

Light Chronicle: GM20130325 &emdash;
Though they are somewhat habituated to people, they really don't like it when you approach them too rapidly / closely or talk too loudly which unfortunately two people did while I was photographing them. Thankfully I kept my eye to the camera and got a couple of flight shots as they left to find a calmer, quieter spot.
Updated: To replace accidentally double posted photo with the correct photo.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Confusing Season

It is that strange transitional season at Great Meadows. Winter is slowly loosing its grip, but is not going out without a struggle. Spring has sent the advance team, but has not yet arrived.

There are large patches of wide open water on the impoundments, but the edges and along the river are still surrounded with ice.  The water levels are high and constantly fluctuating as the storms fill the Concord river which overflows its banks filling the impoundments.

Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;
Muskrats flooded out of their lodge

Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;

In spite of temperatures in the teens and another snow storm on the way, a wide ranging collection of waterfowl can be found at the refuge. This week's census identified:
  • Canada Geese
  • Wood Duck
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Ring-necked Ducks
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
I managed to capture some record shots of a few of the less common visitors.

Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;
American Wigeon moves on 
Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;
Northern Shoveler exploring along the river 
Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;
Startled Northern Shoveler takes flight Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;
Male Hooded Merganser

Along the Dike Trail you will be greeting by returning migratory birds including
Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;  
Grackles
  Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;  
Red-winged Blackbirds
On such a cold morning, you find yourself jealous when you encounter an animal that has found a protected spot out of the wind, relaxing and soak up the sun, while waiting for spring to make its arrival.

Light Chronicle: GM20130318 &emdash;