About the Wood Duck

Drawing by Joseph Hautman who won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Constest

The Wood Duck is so exotic-looking that it’s hard to believe that they’re quite common in my area. Back in March, I stumbled upon three male wood ducks at my favorite pond. I managed to snap an obscured picture before they flew off.

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Later, in May, I saw three of them again—maybe even the same three, in flight. This photo isn’t doctored in any way. The sunsets at Colchester Pond does funny things with the light.

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Though the male of the species is pretty hard to misidentify, the female wood duck can be pretty inconspicuous from afar. I wasn’t sure what this duck was until I got home, zoomed in, and noticed the distinctive white eye ring. After the ducklings are born, the male leaves the female, so it was hard to ID her without him hanging around.

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BTW, females lay their eggs in tree cavities, high above the ground and water. When the ducklings are ready, the mother flies to the nearest water source and calls to the ducklings, who FALL from the nest and walk/swim to the mother.

~@~

Last weekend, I happened upon a Wood Duck couple. Before fall migration, the female chooses a mate to accompany (and protect) her until the Spring.

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I got a little to eager for the shot, though; this time I stepped out from behind the tree…

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…and they flew away

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~@~

If you want to learn more about Wood Ducks or ducks in general, watch The Original Duckumentary on PBS’s Nature.

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The Vermont State Bird and other Thrushes

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Growing up in Virginia, I took seeing the state bird, the fire-red Northern Cardinal, for granted. Conspicuous and ever-present, I’m sure the Cardinal was the first bird I was able to identify.

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Then I moved to Vermont, and found out that the state bird would be a bit harder to come by; with a name like Hermit Thrush what else could one expect? Fortunately, I lived near woods last year, and I had a couple of chance encounters with the Hermit Thrush and its unmistakable speckled chest and reddish tail.

I also managed to anger a Wood Thrush at one point. I didn’t know not to abuse the bird song app on my phone. The local wood thrush didn’t like hearing an interloper at all. That was the only time I saw him, as he angrily and loudly sang his song at what he thought was a rival Wood Thrush. He was larger than the Hermit Thrush and had a lot more spots.

Recently, toward dusk, I heard the craziest sound like a toy laser gun. It was a Veery! Like it’s other thrush cousins, it’s pretty hard to find, as it only hangs out in the forest. But when I went camping, they were all around. They look like Hermit Thrushes, but cinnamon and without the chest spots. I also saw one at Colchester Pond.

Whenever I go to Colchester Pond, I usually hear all four well-known-in-this-area thrushes: American Robin, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, and Veery. Here are some pictures of these bird cousins. Can you guess which is which? Mouse Over the images to learn the answer.

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