Monday, March 15, 2010
Duck Ecology was another class my husband and I took during the Festival of the Cranes. This class was held at New Mexico Tech, a very nice campus in the heart of Socorro, about 18 miles north of the Bosque del Apache. Our presenter was John Vradenburg who is a full-time employee at the Bosque, the Land Management Research and Demonstration Senior Biologist. His presentation pointed out how the Bosque's habitat relates to all the duck species that visit the refuge. He showed us the migration patterns of these birds as well as their breeding strategies and how the refuge is an integral part of their lives.
After class was over, we visited the pond just outside of the classroom, where there are always many ducks and geese, including hybrids, hanging around waiting for a "handout." They are so used to humans feeding them. But that is one thing I refuse to do since they are supposed to be "wild." I was surprised to see this beautiful ring-necked duck in the pond. We usually see these birds only at the Bosque.
And then I took several photos of my favorite duck that lives on this pond, the American Wigeon. Their whistles as I call it are so unique. Typically I think of "ducks" in general as "quackers." But this species "whistles!" I'm not positive, but I think in the photo above we are looking at a female. Notice the brighter green of the plumage on the wigeon behind this bird. But then it could also have been the lighting, the way its head was turned (or not) toward the sun.
And then I saw something that broke my heart. Notice this mallard. It does not look good. A closer look reveals that there is a pin, a push-pin, in its chest. Now, how did it get there? It's obvious this duck wasn't going to live much longer. It seemed to be swimming along as if nothing was wrong, yet it was so pale.
Upon further observance, I saw some movement and heard twittering going on in the bushes next to the pond. I had to see what all the noise was about. And I found a few song birds there. Below is a titmouse trying to hide. I can't ID the other bird below it (possibly a red-winged blackbird).
And then I found out who was doing the singing - a few white crowned sparrows. It's amazing how close to the water these birds get.
One bird I usually see, but did not see this time, is the killdeer. They are usually around the pond in large numbers, but I don't remember seeing any that day and hour.