Category Archives: Ducks and Geese

A Mixed Bag of Birds at Five Rivers

On the same walk I wrote about in ‘Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Wannabees‘, I grabbed a few photos of birds that conveniuently appeared nearby.  I don’t think there’s anything that needs adding in terms of a ‘story’ here, so this is just a small selection of the resultant images:

Nesting territory dispute - Canada Geese
Nesting territory dispute – Canada Geese

 

Northern Roughwing Swallow (Stelgidopterix serripennis)
Northern Roughwing Swallow (Stelgidopterix serripennis)

 

Territorial dispute - Canada Geese
Tree Swallows (Tachicineta bicolor) staking their claim to a nestbox

 

An American Robin, nothing much like the Eurasian Robin from which, presumably, a homesick immigrant gave this ginger-breasted species of thrush its hand-me-down name.
An American Robin, nothing much like the Eurasian Robin from which – presumably – a homesick immigrant gave this ginger-breasted species of thrush its hand-me-down name.

 

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

 

 

Dastardly Deeds on the Delaware River?

THE MYSTERY OF THE DEPOSIT DEPOSIT!

A few days ago, I met up with my Swedish fly fishing buddy Peter Bjorkman, at Deposit, New York, for a day’s fly fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River.  On this occasion, though, I had left my own rods at home and took my cameras, instead.

After a morning fruitlessly ‘swinging a streamer’, Peter switched to one of my own favourite techniques, that of ‘Czech nymphing’, and started to have success.

The 'scene of the crime' - The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!
The ‘scene of the crime’ – The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!

In the meanwhile, I was moving along the bank and occasionally in the shallow edges of the river, and while doing so I spotted the waterlogged body of what appeared to be a cormorant, floating among grasses.

The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface
The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface

Having gone closer, to take a look, I then found an equally sodden duck’s wing nearby.  And then some relatively dry, breast feathers from a lighter coloured bird — possibly also a duck.

The green 'speculum' on the dead duck's wing
The green ‘speculum’ on the dead duck’s wing

All of this was in an area no more than 12 feet in length, and it seemed too much to be coincidence.

Feathers, apparently from a third 'victim'
Feathers, apparently from a third ‘victim’

I changed my search and started looking for signs of a perpetrator, and almost immediately I got what I presumed was a result.  On a rock a few feet out into the water was some scat (about 1½ inches in length).

“That’s not otter,” I thought (though I’m only aware of what Eurasian otter scat looks like, not their American cousins, and I merely presumed it would be similar).

Scat on a prominent rock - typical behaviour for riverside hunters
Scat on a prominent rock – typical behaviour for riverside hunters

“Maybe it’s mink,” seemed like a reasonable conclusion, so I took photographs of all the bits of the various birds and of the scat, so that I could check my animal tracking books when back home.

My sleuthing didn’t pay off though, because according to my books the scat looked absolutely nothing like that of otters or mink, or of any other riverside predator I could think of.  If anything, it looked most like that of the humble musk rat — to my knowledge not a creature that’s likely to be inclined or able to kill and eat large birds.

If any reader happens to belong to that elite group of people who can recognise creatures by their after-dinner deposits, could you kindly let me know what the scat might have belonged to and thereby hopefully solve the question as to whether this was likely to have been murder most ‘fowl’ (sorry!) or simply a coincidental gathering of body parts.

Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed - 'catch-and-release' fishing)
Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed – ‘catch-and-release’ fishing)

And as for my friend Peter, he just kept on fishing, not at all interested in whether or not I had discovered the crime of the century. (And I can’t say that I blame him really!)    {;-)

More Photos from the WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois N.W.R. on 13 April, 2014

Esther Kowal-Bukata has kindly sent me some photos to add the the Iroquois ‘collection’, as posted below.  (The the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs may be viewed here.)

Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluebird.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Eastern Bluebird. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Shoveller.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Northern Shoveller. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs here.

WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Alabama, NY

As we are still in the height of the spring migration of waterfowl, today was a follow-up from our visit last week to the Montezuma NWR, which is about 100 miles E.S.E. from Iroquois.  These two preserves, however, do tend to have a different complexion to each other.

The southwest corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois NWR.  Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
The s.w. corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Iroquois NWR on a fairly regular basis for the past 12 years or so, which has let me see the seasonal variations in a little detail, and so we met this morning at the Cayuga Pool Overlook.  The downside of Cayuga is that the birds tend to be quite distant, which drastically reduces the photographic opportunities, but the upside is the wealth of species that can be viewed, using binoculars, spotting scopes or — of course — longer lenses on one’s camera.

Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

My own species list from today is as follows, but I hope anyone in the group who saw other birds will e-mail me so they can be added here:

Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  •  Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagles (at nest)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • American Goldfinch
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.

One of the commonest but many would say most delightful birds to be seen arriving at ponds and lakes each April is the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).  The “bicolor” part of its scientific name refers to the fact that the refractive sheen on this bird’s back changes from typically being more blue in spring to green in fall.

In spring, however, some birds appear to have only the back of their head showing colour, with their back being a drabber brown. These are first-year females that are just coming up to their ‘first birthday’.

Tree Swallows at nestbox. CVopyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nestbox. Copyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.

As at least two of our group photographed tree swallows during this outing, I’ve included some photographs here.

I’ve also added an older photo of my own, taken in May 2011 at the same location (Cayuga Pool), just to make the point that even pocket-sized, point-and-shoot cameras can occasionally be used to get acceptably pleasing bird photos.

Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The shot in question (below left), of a tree swallow emerging from a nest hole in an old post, was taken with a Pentax Optio 80 camera, and despite the angle may show one of the first-year females I referred to above.

More photographs from this visit to the Iroquois NWR will be posted on the next page of this write-up [link to follow shortly], but for anyone wanting to visit the refuge on their own, you can be sure it is well worthwhile (otherwise it wouldn’t have that “national” importance in its title!).

The three primary habitats to be found at Iroquois are:

  • emergent marsh
  • forested wetlands
  • grasslands

On this occasion, our own WWNP group visit focussed almost entirely on the areas of open water but we will certainly be going back to look at the other environments, including a ‘warbler walk’ in May. To contact the WWNP group and potentially join us for various outings, please e-mail wwnp [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — replacing the ‘at’ and the ‘dot’ with the relevant symbols and leaving no spaces. (This is done to cut down on spam e-mails.)

You may view more photos from this visit to Iroquios, by Esther Kowal-Bukata, here.

Useful web  pages are here:

Plan your Visit

Wildlife and Habitat

Seasons of Wildlife (i.e. what you might see)

The best map of the Iroquois Refuge (pdf)

Eddie

 

WWNP group visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Seneca Falls, NY

Today’s WWNP group visit to the Montezuma NWR in the Finger Lakes region of New York State was a gem, both in terms of the weather and the 41 bird species seen.

About half of the group when we first arrived
About half of the group when we first arrived

When we arrived, about 8:00am, the sun was in a cloudless sky but there was still a fairly significant frost lying and large areas of the ponds were still under ice.  Initially we all went on the ‘Wildlife Drive’ around the Main Pool, which turned up a wealth of waterfowl, a solitary wader (lesser yellowlegs) and countless industrious muskrats.  After that, our five cars went their separate ways to various viewing areas and we re-grouped at noon, for lunch and a laugh, followed by a second trip around the preserve.

Trumpeter Swans. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Trumpeter Swans. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

 

Northern Harrier (female). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Northern Harrier (female). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

 

Lesser Yellowlegs. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Lesser Yellowlegs. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

The birds seen were:

  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Snow Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Mallard
  • American Black Duck
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveller
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Greater Scaup
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck (David G.)
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Egret (Susan W.)
  • Osprey (at nest sites and flying)
  • Bald Eagle (including a surprising group of 11 immatures)
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Killdeer
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
Bufflehead (male). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Bufflehead (male). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow (migrating flock)
  • American Robin
  • European Starling
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
Muskrat. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Muskrat. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

If anyone who was with us at Montezuma has any more species’ names that need to be added to this list, please just let me know.

Similarly, would all the photographers who were in the group — i.e. most of you! — kindy forward two or three of your best shots to me so we can make a gallery of the day’s images that aren’t just by Andrea and I…. please!  {:-)

Speaking of Andrea, she has already sent me some great photos which I will be posting as soon as I can on page two of this day’s write-up and these will then be linked here.

  • Gallery of photos by Kathy Fenna, Esther Kowal-Bukata and Andrea Burke: click here

Eddie — 6 April, 2014

Birding at Buckhorn (Grand Island, NY), 16 March 2014

About a week ahead of the walk, meteorologists had forecast a realtively balmy 25F for the day of our Buckhorn Island State Park birding trip, but as each day went by, the promised temperature dropped by about a degree until — on the day of the walk — it was a mere 18F…. a little too chilly for some.  Even so, a few moderately intrepid individuals were still “up for it,” and we were rewarded with plenty sunshine even though its warmth was completely overcome by the breeze.

Tundra Swans (with a couple of Canada Geese) resting on an island in the Niagara River
Tundra Swans (with a couple of Canada Geese) resting on an island in the Niagara River

New person Donna, plus myself and Andrea were the first to arrive at Woods Creek canoe launch parking lot and we were all promptly caught napping when a small flock of birds was spotted in a nearby tree, stunningly highlighted in gold by the sunshine.  I think we must all have been momentarily mesmerised by what can genuinely be called a beautiful moment, to the extent that the cedar waxwings in question all flew away before any of us had the sense to “get the shot!”  Yes, “only” cedar waxwings, but you should have seen that light on them!

Donna and Andrea at work
Donna and Andrea at work

After the short walk through the woods to the river, it took only a few moments to pick out over 40 distant Tundra Swans, huddled down with their heads tucked in, for warmth.  A couple of them later lifted their heads and an additional swan flew in, and these two little incidents gave us a somewhat better look (see above).

Male and female Bufflehead
Male and female Bufflehead

With the vast majority of the waterbirds being well out into the Niagara River, it was inevitably longer lenses that were most useful.  However, courtesy of Andrea, I was trying out her Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM zoom lens and I’ve posted a few of the cropped results on this page. (Thanks, Andrea!)

Red-breasted Merganser - male
Red-breasted Merganser – male

For any birders not from this area on the US/Canadian border, it is worth adding that the Niagara River is classed as an Important Bird Area [IBA] by both countries.  Indeed, in winter, the Niagara River hosts up to 20 percent of the world population of Bonaparte’s Gulls, making it a globally significant IBA.

A male Common Goldeneye and a female Red-breasted Merganser
A male Common Goldeneye and a female Red-breasted Merganser

More information about the Niagara River IBA may be found at http://www.ibacanada.ca%2Fconservationplans%2Fonniagrarivercorridor.pdf

Three male Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) - a.k.a. just 'Scaup' in Britain
Three male Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) – a.k.a. just ‘Scaup’ in Britain

At the bridge over Woods Creek, right where the creek hits the Niagara, a few Greater Scaup, some Bufflehead and some Red-breasted Mergansers had come in closer to the shore, which made the challenge easier.  At this location, many of the photos here could have been taken with a pocket-sized camera (subject to cropping) — something which doesn’t happen as often as one might like.

Two Red-breasted Mergansers -- a definite female in the foreground, with an apparent first-winter bird behind.
Two Red-breasted Mergansers — a definite female in the foreground, with an apparent first-winter bird behind.

The bird species I noted during this walk were as follows (but anyone else that can add to the list, please let me know what you saw, and I’ll include them):

  • Tundra Swan (>40)
  • Canada Goose
  • Canvasback
  • Greater Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Greater Black-backed Gull
  • Rock Dove
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal

Andrea-Burke_140316-1442_ice-&-tree

Finally, on our way back to the cars, it would appear that neither Andrea nor I could resist being distracted for a few moments by what will hopefully be the last of the winter woodland sights for this year: Andrea by a water- and ice-bound dead tree and myself by one of one of my own favourite winter subjects — red  berries!

Just as the warlord in the movie 'Last of the Samurai' allegedly spent his life looking for the one perfect cherry blossom, I think I'm equally addicted to red berries! {:-)
Just as the warlord in the movie ‘Last of the Samurai’ allegedly spent his life looking for the one perfect cherry blossom, I think I’m equally addicted to red berries! {:-)

As for our Wildlife Watchers and Nature Photographers group, anyone in the WNY or South Ontario areas who might be interested in coming on some of our walks please just e-mail me on wwnp [at] eddiewren [dot] com

From the first of April until Nov/Dec, we will be out somewhere most weekends.

Eddie Wren