Posted in Birding, Passeriformes, Starlings

European Starling

We had finished our journey at the duck pond and we were freezing our hands off. We shivered our way into the car. Beaker especially was having difficulties. As we stopped at a light near CVS Pharmacy, he was the first to say quite quickly, “Well let’s go home! Enough birds and…”

“Hey look,” I said, “European Starlings.”

Everyone looked around. “Where?”

“Over there on the power lines near CVS”

“I don’t think we should stop for ugly black birds,” Beaker said. Beaker usually has a dislike for black, bald or boring birds.

“But Beaker,” I said, “European Starlings are very colorful and sparkly in the sunlight.”

“Yes, but…”

“And they were introduced here because of their occurrence in Shakespeare .”

“Um… Yes.”

“And it’s a new bird.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. Beaker pulled into the CVS Pharmacy parking lot and parked.

Hawkeye shook her head. “You crazy man.” She couldn’t believe we were going out in the cold to get a closer look at ‘ugly birds’.

Beaker and I got out and Beaker started trying to get pictures. A scowl began to form on his face. “What’s the matter, Beaker? This cold bothering you?”

Back-lit Starlings
Back-lit Starlings

“No.” He answered. “There’s too much back-light.”

I thought about that for a while. “If we went into the road there would be no back-light.”

“Yes,” Beaker said, “but that would be the last picture we would take!”

Okay, so we didn’t get he best pictures, but it was still cool to see the Shakespeare bird.

Posted in Anseriformes, Birding, Ducks

Ring-necked Duck

Northern Shovelers were not the only ducks that were avoiding us. There were also the ring-necked ducks. Ring-necks are diving ducks. They are distinguished from their relatives by a white ring on the bill and the nearly invisible cinnamon neck ring, in which it got its name. Ring-necks are quite shy and never come for bread. This is because they are diving ducks and dive for their food; aquatic plants and aquatic insects.

Another reason they are shy is because they are a very common sport duck and are also hunted for food. Apparently Beaker’s camera looked like a gun. Like the shovelers, they avoided us and swam to the opposite side we were on. We had a plan. Beaker would hide on one of the sides and the rest of us would drive the ducks to him.

We yelled and jumped. We accidentally woke up a turtle. Even the used-to-people Muscovy Duck got annoyed and swam away. Of course it worked on the shy, ring-necked ducks. Beaker got good pictures that were nice and close up but I bet you still can’t see their hidden neck ring.

Ring-billed Ring-necks?
Ring-billed Ring-necks?
Posted in Birding, Ciconiformes, Egrets

Snowy Egret

Through rolled up windows everyone watched the rustle and bustle, the flapping and fluttering of our feathered friends as they flocked on the duck pond outside our car.

It was but a quick retreat from the cold for Mimic and Snowfeather. Feeling much warmer, they were ready to return to the wild, to get back out there and spot a new bird. More than ducks inhabited this duck pond. “I think the rain has let up a bit,” Hawkeye said. “Let’s all get out this time.”

I agreed. “But what if it starts to rain? I don’t want my camera to get wet.”

“I can hold the umbrella for you.”

“That’s nice of you, Mimic. But I don’t think I’ll be shooting from that low of an angle. Besides your a good spotter. You need to be free to spot.”

Mimic, always ready to help, was halfway out the door when Hawkeye promised to provide an umbrella shelter from a higher altitude. If the need be.

I strolled to the left, watching the pond as I went. A bright and sleekly shaped figure, gracefully gliding over the water, captured my attention. It was as white as a swan and as thin as a rail. If it were a duck, the poor thing would be starved. Emaciated duck or not, I knew I needed its picture. “What is that skinny white thing that keeps flying back and forth?”

“That’s a Snowy Egret.”

“Is it lost?” I asked. “There ain’t no snow around here.”

A cold Snowy Egret.
A cold Snowy Egret.

Mimic replied straightforwardly. “It’s called ‘snowy’ because of its color not its habitat. Egrets of all sorts are fairly common here.”

Still, at this particular duck pond, at this particular time, the only egret within eyesight was the sleek and shiny, snowy one. Snow itself hadn’t been seen in years. Although it certainly felt cold enough.

Brrrr.