Last week’s post was all about hawks. This time, with the weather turning milder and the frozen ponds starting to melt, it’s all (well mostly) about ducks. On Saturday, my friend Rebecca and I headed over to the Tingley fishing ponds where we’d heard a Common Goldeneye was being seen. Sure enough, we saw the male just about as soon as we started looking.
It would turn out to be a great morning for ducks, with quite a few species hanging out quite close to shore and with excellent lighting. I haven’t spent much time studying ducks around here under the false assumption that there wouldn’t be all that many here in the New Mexico desert. A fairly commonly seen species is the Ring-necked Duck (why they aren’t called Ring-billed is a mystery to me).
This next picture is of the same guy just moments before and made me chuckle at his impression of a Dutch speed skater.
Also busy on the ice that morning was a pair of American Wigeon, the male cautiously evaluating the thickness of the ice,
and the female appearing slightly more confident in the conditions.
Of course, there were plenty of the ubiquitous American Coot and Mallards, a good number of Canada Geese and other domestic geese, and a small grouping of Neotropic Cormorants about. One of the Canvasbacks waddled up onto the ice to preen for a photograph,
but the rather similar-looking Redhead decided it was better to stick with paddling about in the water.
The only way I can tell the difference between them is the dark bill and bright white sides on the Canvasback compared to the Redhead.
Another couple that chose to float rather than skate was the Lesser Scaup – here’s the male,
and this is his mate.
I returned to the ponds a couple of times during the week to spot a few other species. In a massive flock of mallards, coots, and everybody else feeding on some breadcrumbs tossed by some visitors was a single male Northern Pintail.
There were also two Black-crowned Night-Herons on the ponds this week, an immature that hid under a bush on the island the whole time I was there and a more personable mature one that let me get close enough for a picture.
After checking out Tingley Ponds on Saturday, we next went to Alameda Open Space where a few rare gulls were being reported. No gulls to be seen that day, but we were treated to several close passes by two Bald Eagles.
And, just because these guys are so cool, we went to check on the Western Screech-Owl I’d seen last week. Last week, it seemed content to just fluff up in its cavity soaking up the warm rays of the sun. This week it must’ve been tucked into the nest when we first started looking, but when I played the tape, it popped up and looked ready to rumble with its eyes open for trouble and claws ready to push off in an instant. (Note to self: be a little more considerate of the bird’s feelings in the future when deciding whether or not to play a tape.)
In addition to a couple of visits to Tingley Ponds this week and to Alameda in hopes of seeing the Bald Eagles again, today I spent some time at the Rio Grande Nature Center. I did see my Bald Eagle there, but it took off before I was able to get any good pictures. A couple of Wood Ducks were on the Nature Center ponds, but none came close enough for a picture either. However, there was a cooperative Northern Shoveler who agreed to pose for a moment.
And along the river, I finally got some reasonably close shots of a male Common Merganser
and, for the first time this year, a female.
Today was a treat, too, for a couple of other birds. As I was walking toward the bridge from the Nature Center, several Cedar Waxwings were in among a large number of American Robins busily feeding at a Russian Olive tree. Although they were usually a bit in the shade, I got a few nice pictures; this is one of the better ones.
Just as I was wrapping it up this morning, a female Northern Harrier shot by along the ditch right over my head and I snapped this picture.
So now I’ve had my Hawk Week and my Duck Week; who knows what next week will bring? This week’s Audubon Thursday Birder trip heads down to the Bosque del Apache NWR, so there’s bound to be some goodies there.