Monday, March 15, 2010

Around the Pond

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.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Great collection of birds.The Wigeon is a beautiful birds,but that poor Mallard.I hope he isn't suffering too much.

Kay said...

Really nice photos! I liked the American Wigeon photos especially. My favorite ducks are also whistlers--the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that come to our feeders.
I enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

Mary C said...

Hi Ruth - I'm also hoping this mallard didn't suffer much. It sure looked pale like it probably wouldn't live too much longer.

Hi Kay - thank you for stopping by and commenting. I have yet to see a black-bellied whistling duck. But I can always hope to find some in my travels some day. I noticed in your profile that you are in southern TX, and you must have quite a yard to get to see that many bird species. I also just skimmed your blog post from today; it looks like great reading, so I am adding you to the blogs I follow.

Kathiesbirds said...

Mary, wow, it has been so long since you have posted! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I will be writing a new blog once I move but I will be posting on Sycamore Canyon until the last good-bye!

The photo of the duck with the push-pin is so sad. Your widgeons are all males. The female is mottled brown that gets darker around the eye. She has no green or white on her head. We get both widgeons and ring-necked ducks here in Tucson during the winter. I will have to discover what species of ducks are around NE once I move back there. I really don't know what to expect except for mallards and wood ducks.

Rick said...

Boy Howdy6, that is not a push pin, it is a blow dart. It will very likely kill the bird. I would very much like to catch the person who shot that duck.

Mary C said...

Rick, thanks for visiting and commenting. I cannot understand why someone would do such a thing. And this duck was found on the pond located on the campus of New Mexico Tech. I don't know if the duck was "traveling through" or was a resident; but this duck certainly did not deserve this kind of death. My apologies for not posting your comment sooner; I've been inactive for the past several months, but do hope to get back to blogging in the near future.


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