Category Archives: American Black Duck

Late Winter Birds, Far and Near

These waning days of winter have given Yang and I some fun bird watching, whether at home or away.  For instance, Yang went for a stroll one day on a canal that runs perpendicular to the Blackstone River and sighted some interesting ducks and the peripatetic Kingfisher.  So, the next day, I had him take me back there. Sure enough we saw some swell birds.  Yang got some really nice shots of a pair of hooded mergansers.  At first we thought they were both females, but I noticed that one had a distinctive long, pointed tail sticking above the water, as well as a fluffier brush of feathers at the back of the head.  I suspect that one was a juvenile male.  We either had a Mom and her teenage son or a Cougar duck.  Who can tell? Enjoy the pictures!

 

I also got to see the Kingfisher, a male.  I heard his excited chatter way down toward the end where the canal ran into the Blackstone.   I kept my eyes peeled until I saw a blob of white way ahead in a tall tree over the waters.  Training my binoculars confirmed my suspicions, bringing into focus a magnificent male Belted Kingfisher.  Yang came up and got some shots with the binoculars he could attach to his cell phone.  We had a great time watching His Majesty swoop down into the water, skimming along to fly off with his fishy dinner.

Further from home, we visited Forest Park in Springfield on our way to lunch in Montague.  This turned out to be the mecca for Common Mergansers. We saw tons of them in one of the ponds.  They were shy guys, as whenever we got  close to the shore, they paddled off to the middle of the pond.  Yang did get some nice pictures of them, though.  I love how the males gleam white, their green heads almost black.  Their head feathers in the back are far smoother than those of the male Red Breasted Mergansers.  In both these types of Mergansers, the females are beautiful, with their Rita Hayworth-red locks! Yang loves the ducks’ red beaks.

We also found some American Black Ducks enjoying the same pond as well.

Unfortunately, a nice swim almost ended in a trip over the dam! Can’t you just hear his wife yelling, “Dam/n!” Her husband responding, “Don’t you cuss at me . . . Whoa!!!”

 

 

 

Closer to home – as in  the bird feeders next to my house –  we’ve been seeing some nifty birds, old friends and new.  The Mockingbird and the Redwinged Blackbirds are back.  Would you believe that even in the snow, the Robins have been scooting about for at least two weeks?  Here we have a Robin and a Downy Woodpecker chilling (literally with all the snow)  in a tree outside my sun porch window.

I must say that this Robin loves his/her? suet.

 

We also had the pleasure of this Red Bellied Woodpecker’s company. Since it’s a female, it wouldn’t be the one who was stunned after hit our sun-porch window.  We brought him in in a box and let him warm up for about an hour then set him free. Whoosh!  He was in great shape and off to the races.  We see him and his mate here quite a bit.  They’re also big suet lovers.

 

Now, here some of our other visitors.  There are cheeky Goldfinches,

 

 

 

 

caring cardinals,

 

 

 

and perky Downy Woodpeckers.

 

Bring on the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks!

 

Adventures with Waterfowl at Silver Sands Beach

Yang and I went to the beach last week when we had some warm weather– in New England, in winter,  you can call 40 degrees warm. It started out as a trip to Tea with Tracey in Connecticut for tea (obviously), but since the day was so sunny and “warm,” Yang suggested that after tea, we head to nearby Silver Sands Beach to see what birds might be visiting.  I think he felt bad for me because we were the only people at Plum Island the week before who didn’t see a Snow Owl. Anyway, once we got there, we were NOT disappointed, with a special guest star appearing that neither of us had ever seen before!
As we approached where the waves broke on the shore, we were delighted to see Herring Gulls mixing and mingling with Brant Geese.  The gulls I’d seen many times before.  However, I’d only seen Brants twice previously.  They were not afraid of us and let Yang take lots of photographs.  Here are some neat ones we saw of them along the shore.
When the Brants took to the water, they proceeded in well-ordered convoy fashion.  You’d almost think they were heading to Britain with Lend-Lease weaponry, on the watch for Nazi U-Boats.
Maybe they had air support from the Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.  I think some gulls might even have been acting as the Armed Guard.

We also saw some old favorites, American Black Ducks.  Here are two in conference.

 

 

 

Over here is another guy just chillin’ on a rock.  Maybe he felt he’d be chillin’ too much, literally, if he joined his pals in the ocean.  What do you think?
Then, there was this lonesome stranger.  Yang and I spotted a white dot in the ocean.  We almost dismissed it as yet another Hooded Merganser, but Yang had second thoughts and trained his binoculars on this guy.  Well, what do you know?  A duck that neither of us had ever seen before.  He was a study in art decco black and white, with a whitish Presley pompadour swept and puffed up off his forehead. His yellow eyes contrasted with a black pupil.  Even his pink beak had symmetric black patches on either side! Then, when he dived, there was that long, slim tail flipping up.

What could he be?  A Harlequin Duck?  A funky Woodduck? A pintail of some kind? My guess was an Oldsquaw – and darned if a peek in my Peterson’s and a look on-line didn’t prove me right.  Now, some people don’t like the term “squaw” in his name, feeling it’s offensive.  So, considering that yellowish white pompadour, could we rename him an OldElvis?  Too soon?
Anyway, like our new friend, I’m going to take a dive and say, “so long!”

 

A Visit to the Connecticut Shore

In the midst of all that God-awful rain last week, we had a day full of sun and warmth on Tuesday.  So we hopped in our car and headed for the Connecticut shoreline and some of our old haunts!  First, we stopped at Bill’s seafood for our annual (and more often if we can!) fix of lobster rolls!  Mmm, Bill’s has the best, with a handy helping of crisp and hearty french fries and cole slaw with a nice tang. You can see Yang enjoys his repast!

As usual, we sat on the deck, which is next to a river and salt marsh flowing to the sea.  We especially love to do that because you always see loads of seabirds there.  This time, we could espy teenage ospreys in their platform next out in the marsh, while wild cries overhead alerted us to their hunting parents flying overhead.  We couldn’t take pictures because the platform was too far out, but we’d remembered to bring binoculars.  so, we got a good look at the young osprey.

We also had the pleasure of seeing some less fierce feathered critters.  We got a few pictures of some American Black Ducks, as you can see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a mamma Mallard with her three babies scooting around.  It was cute to watch her leisurely paddling while her kiddos worked those webbed feet furiously to keep up!  Someone commented that this must be her second clutch, since they were so little so late in the season.

 

After Bill’s, it was off to Old Lyme to visit Joan Bennett at the Pleasant View Cemetery.  there used to be a riding academy and horse-boarding farm across the street, so I used to think that Joan, who was a rider, would have found that view pleasant, indeed.  Today, the grass wasn’t too bad in the cemetery, and it was filled with butterflies.  I saw a Monarch, the Black Swallow Tail in this picture (thanks to Charmaine Kinton for the i.d.) and a beautiful bright yellow butterfly (no, not a Tiger Swallow Tail).  I know Joan loved yellow and butterflies are symbols of the soul.  Do you think she was  saying “hi” to me?  I also noticed that there was a sign for a house for sale on the street.  should we all chip and buy it so that we visit our friend more easily – and keep the grass trimmed?  I also noticed that Joan had a cousin, Patricia Morrison (not the actress), who died very young.  Does anyone know the story there?

Anyway, we checked ourselves for ticks before we got in the car – we were in Lyme- then went off to Rocky Neck State Park.  This park is a wonderful place to hit the beach or take hikes along trails.  Once more, we saw several nesting platforms for ospreys with young ospreys in them.   There was one that had a nest not as thick as the others, so we thought it was unfinished or abandoned.  We found out later we were wrong. Once again, thank God for binoculars!  We also saw many Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets, as well as a Kildeer!  Yang even managed to get this shot of a Green Heron!  So, in case you’re still wondering, what was the deal with the underdeveloped platform nest?  Well, we were checking it out with the binoculars when a red-tailed hawk came sailing in.  The hawk kept looking at something in the nest that we couldn’t see, but we suspect it was his/her family.  Thanks to the binoculars, we got a great closeup of the bird’s enormous eyes, powerful hooked beak, and beautiful feather patterns.  A formidable creature, indeed!

Finally, we moved on to the beach and then up to the huge, field stone pavilion that had been built in the 1930s as a WPA project.  The building was one of the reasons Yang had wanted to come here.  He’d been reading the draft of my third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse, and its description of the setting whetted his appetite to return to one of our favorite places to go walking.  The pavilion is a long building with beautiful hard wood floors inside.  Couldn’t you just picture a big band playing there, and people dancing on a summer’s eve with a tangy salt breeze cooling off all those hot cats and kittens?  It turns out you can rent it for $3,750 for a gathering of  under 200 people.  A larger number is less expensive.  Any one want to GoFund a swing night there – and I mean swing dancing!

There are also some beautiful views of the ocean from the pavilion.

 

 

 

 

Then we closed out the day with dinner at The Main Street Grille in Niantic – well, not exactly.  We also went for a 30 minute walk on the boardwalk in town as well.  No wonder I was limping on Wednesday and Thursday.  Nevertheless,  I was recovered enough to jitterbug, cha-cha, rhumba, and fox trot to Dan Gabel and the Abletones at Moseley on the Charles on Friday.  Good bless heating pads and Advil!