|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,
and perky Downy Woodpeckers.
Bring on the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks!
Every year, Yang and I make a pilgrimage to the Cape to check out the migrating ducks. Usually we make the trip in mid-January or early February, not far from my birthday. This year, we went on January 15th, and we weren’t disappointed. We saw ruddy ducks, hooded and rust-breasted mergansers, a red-throated loon, swans, etc. However, at first I was a little let down because I didn’t see the annual flock of eiders bobbing on ocean waves. That disappointment disappeared as we moved further along the beach trail.
Yang and I saw some dark specks floating on rough seas not far from a jetty. The sun was in our eyes at first, so even with binoculars, we weren’t sure what we were seeing. Then, we got out to a place with better lighting, and there they were: my pals the eider ducks! I’m not sure if we are going to that jetty to see them every year or if they’re returning to get a peek at us! Anyway, it was a delight to watch them carried up and down by the waves, even swimming into a little cove of the jetty. As you can see, we were able to get pretty close.
A couple of duck were giving us the once over in these shots! Right in the center of the picture.
Especially interesting, I had never noticed that the males have a white stripe down the back of the black feathers on their heads. I’d also never noticed the greenish/yellowish/grey patch at the bottom of that black cap, either. Click on the photos here to get a closer look. Every year it’s something new. Do you think they noticed something different about Yang and I this year?
Significance of the subtitle: Remember the old joke? “How do you get down from and elephant? You don’t. You get down from a duck.” Eider down, right?
Enjoy the ducks in motion:
January and February have become a tradition for us to go bird watching for ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds. This year has been an exceptionally good one for such adventures. We always head to the Cape and the Shining Sea Trail around my birthday for one of our biggest forays. This year we were not disappointed. Once more, we saw a large flock of Eider Ducks rafting on the rough January seas. The weather was so cold one of my knees started to seize up! Nevertheless, we saw a large flock that included the brown females, mature males startling in their contrast of black and white feathers, and the juvenile males that tended to a gradual graying into white in a less striking contrast. Did you ever notice that Eiders have a beak reminiscent of Bob Hope’s ski-slope schnozz – no disrespect to Eiders.
Swimming separately in the same bay were other interesting aquatic birds. Here are a pair of Common Golden Eyes. I thought they were Ring-Necked Ducks at first; but, no, they are Golden Eyes. Anyway, they were fun to watch surfing the waves, diving for lunch, and popping up goodness knows where. We also had the good fortune to catch sight of a Horned Grebe. I can’t remember the last time I saw one. He also was a little charmer with his unexpected dives and equally surprising reappearances. I hope these guys caught some snacks – pace to the Atlantic fish.
We scooted over to a pond in Falmouth and got a gander (sorry, couldn’t resist) at some Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers, and a Swan. Here’s a group shot.
Here’s a flotilla of Hooded Mergansers. Just click on the photo to get a clearer view.
Our next adventure was at the Charles River in Needham Heights, where we saw not only Mallards but the Common Merganser. This guy was so beautiful, with his green/black head and contrasting pure white chest and underside. Also on display were more Hooded Mergansers. I love to watch these guys. Where the other ducks and geese serenely loiter across the waters, these guys surge along like mini speed boats, white crests proclaiming their presence!
Third stop: Rocky Neck, Ct. Here we saw quite a few interesting water birds. Once again, the proud and speedy little Hooded Mergansers powered their way across the marsh water. We also saw several other types of birds as well. There were Gadwall Ducks, Blue Herons, gulls and even a Common Loon. The Loon was not in this same marsh, but in the ocean, in a cove by the jetty. Many of these critters were pointed out to us by two lovely people who were also birding fans. Thanks to their kind advice! Check out some of the images below.
A closeup of the Hooded Merganser.
The Gadwall Ducks.
Who you lookin’ at?
A different type of Loon. The Sharon Bird on her migratory peregrinations in search of feathered friends at the beach. Note the winter plumage.