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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The Blackbirds of Spring

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Last year, Spring didn’t faze. Things were in such upheaval that I hardly noticed the change in weather. But this year, there’s a lot more for me to see: I’ve noticed the birds, of course, coming and going. I’ve noticed the budding trees in which it is a little tougher to see birds. I first noticed Spring a few weeks ago when I awoke to a carnival outside my window–a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds chutting and squealing. They’d arrived en masse, snow still on the ground, the sunshine glistening on their red, yellow, and black backs. I had no idea that this was going to happen, but it was great to see some new birds!

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Common GrackleBrown-Headed Cowbirds

Along with the Blackbirds came other black birds: Common Grackles and Brown-Headed Cowbirds.

Lovely to see you after your long trip! Where have you been all Winter?

 

Juvenile and FemaleA couple of weeks after the males, the females followed. Soon, the males, will find their mate(s), the females will build nests in their chosen territory, and then baby birds!

 

I can’t wait to see what else the days and weeks will bring (warblers!). Check out my week-to-week bird list to see what happens!

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Meet Virginia

Growing up, I didn’t have a fascination with birds. A few conspicuous species were familiar to me, but I never photographed them, fed them, or watched them. Many years later, I return home to see what I missed. I’ve come to realize that birds have always been around me; I was just too blind to see, too distracted to care.

Carolina Wren on a Chain Link FenceFor example, I thought there were no woodpeckers where I grew up, but Christmas Eve, just across the street, I saw a Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker and a Downy Woodpecker. In my parent’s backyard, I was able to finally get a good (enough) photograph of a Carolina Wren! Many of the birds I saw, I’d never noticed growing up: Junco, Chickadee, Finch, but what new birds would I be able to see in Virginia? I decided to visit a local park, The Wetlands, to see what I could see; I saw a ton!: a Veery Hermit Thrush hanging out with Bluebirds, A Ruby-Crowned Kinglet that seemed to follow me around the Park, a House Wren hanging out in a Meadow.

The Wetlands, Richmond, VirginiaTufted TitmousePileated WoodpeckerHermit ThrushEastern BluebirdWhite-Breasted NuthatchEastern BluebirdRed-Bellied WoodpeckerRed-Bellied WoodpeckerMockingbird takes flight, mocking me.House WrenWhite-Throated SparrowYellow-Rumped WarblerRuby-Crowned KingletCarolina ChickadeeNorthern Flicker, Up A TreeFemale Northern Flicker

One of the best part of The Wetlands was aural: it was generally quiet and bird calls echoed throughout–I even got to hear a Barred Owls for the first time ever. I thought it was a dog at first. There were many dogs. And children. And runners. But overall, it was very peaceful and the vistors were very nice.

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My Favorite Non-Bird Pic, So Far

A few weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Colchester Pond to see what I could see. I took one or two shots of a duck from so far away that I only realized it was a Hooded Merganser after I got home. The pic is small, so it’s not really that great, but it was a lifer for me.

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But I did happen to take one of my favorite (non-bird) pics ever. Behold!

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I think it’s a tree growing out of the pond, but I’m not sure. There’s some fishing line and mud, but overall, I like it–especially because of the reflection of the sky on the top right.

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Non-Bird Pics

You know, whilst birdwatching and just being out in nature, sometimes you encounter wildlife other than birds. This week, I encountered my first fox!

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Here are some other pics of wildlife I’ve captured while I’ve been out birding.

FrogFrogSnapping TurtleSnapping TurtleBee and Bleeding HeartFrogHello, friendSquirrelWho needs thumbs?Rabbits in my BackyardThe FoxAmerican Red SquirrelChipmunk by the carBlack SquirrelTwo CicadasCicada Killer Wasp Killing a CicadaLittle Bunny Foo-FooCicadaAnt and CicadaFishDSC03731.JPGGrasshopper

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Hello, Colchester!

So I’ve been very busy packing cleaning, painting, etc. But I have had a little time to bird watch, even though I have stiff competition from the neighbors! Mostly, there are MANY MANY Blue Jays and Dark-Eyed Juncos. Here’s a picture I took this afternoon, while putting together my compost bin. It’s of a Downy Woodpecker de-barking my tree.

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Goodbye, Charlotte

I’m really gonna miss this place when I move…

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It was here that I discovered my love for birds! I’ve seen more species in these past few months right outside my window than any other year combined!

Vermont is awesome!

The Hermit Thrush–Vermont State Bird

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I just hope that my new house will have birds on my back porch too…

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New Images

A talented friend of mine used his skillz for good instead of evil and drew me a chickadee.
Chickadee dee dee
Thanks, Zander!

I also updated the site header to cycle through some of my own photos. Enjoy!

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Today, there were birds!

Three Lifers, even!

The Yellow-Rumped “Myrtle” Warbler*

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The White-Throated Sparrow*

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and The Black-Throated Blue Warbler The Dark-Eyed Junco

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*I hadn’t seen many birds all week and I went to bed a little down. I woke up and went into the backyard, determined to find birds and I did! I saw both the Myrtle and the Sparrow for the first time today, but the pictures didn’t really turn out how I wanted them. Later, I drove 30 minutes away to a winery in South Hero and coincidentally saw both birds and was able to get good pictures.

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