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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Feeling Ducky in 2013

Happy New Year bird fans!  Our first (of hopefully much more frequent) posts in 2013 is a selection of some wonderful waterfowl we've spotted over the last several months everywhere from the Catskills to Brooklyn's own backyard.

Common Mergansers Three

The Merganser family was still patrolling the lake in September when we were there for a camping trip. The chicks have all grown up and they don't appear to be in any rush to leave....except when we approach that is.  These ducks are relatively shy; even as we approach on the path 20 yards away they'll get up off their log and start swimming.  I'm just glad they've decided to make our favorite camping spot their home.

Common Merganser Looking Cool in the Shimmering Sunlight

 American Coot & Feet

Black Scoter

This was taken at Jamaica Bay in early October where these Scoter's were passing through.  They rarely venture beyond the salt water coasts.

Brants & Egrets

Although wetlands are natural barriers to coastal flooding, Jamaica Bay didn't fare well during Hurricane Sandy, mostly due to oil and sewage run-off from neighboring communities and debris from the storm.  Certainly the storm won't stop the spring migratory birds from coming, but I wonder what they'll find when they get there.  Speaking of Sandy, we can add the Great Horned Owl's nest in Prospect Park to the storm's toll. 

Northern Shoveler on Ice

Last weekend at Prospect Park the lake was teeming with ducks, gulls and geese.

Male Northern Shoveler & Friends

Hooded Meragnser Crest Up

I had a full on birdgasm with this one. The Hooded Merganser is the smallest of the Mergansers and while it sports the same mohawky crest that the rest of the Mergansers do, the Hooded takes it to the next level.  This is one of those ducks that I was very familiar with before having seen it, but for some reason wrote it off as something that I wouldn't see in person, let alone in our very own Prospect Park. We committed a cardinal sin of birdwatching and forgot to bring the binoculars to the park that day, so all we had to work with was the camera, but it served us well.  

Hooded Merganser Crest Down

 Hooded Mergansers Two

 I like this shot because you can really see their slender, spikelike bill, a common feature of all the Mergansers.  They were fishing away in the late afternoon sun.

Male & Female Hooded Mergansers - Breeding Plumage

And now for the Brooklyn Bird Nerds birding lesson of the day: Breeding Plumage vs. In Eclipse

I always assumed that if we were bothering to point out a bird's plumage as "breeding", then there must be some other "non-breeding" plumage that the bird has the rest of the year when it's not breeding season.  My attempts at finding a picture of a male Hooded Merganser without it's stunning pattern failed, and I felt like I didn't have the whole picture.  It turns out, that while a bird may have breeding plumage, it does not necessarily have eclipse plumage.

In Eclipse: This describes a bird's plumage after breeding, when they begin to moult and take on a duller appearance. It can starkly contrast with the more colorful and vibrant breeding plumage.  

A male Wood Duck may be in eclipse, and lacks the long head feathers and nearly all of its color.  The male Hooded Merganser, however, maintains it's black, white and rusk colors and patterns year round.  In its case, "breeding plumage" may only describe the level of sharpness or vibrancy of color.  The female above is in full on breeding plumage, and lacks the more subdued crest and white head patch she has while she is in eclipse.

 Hooded Merganser Takes Flight

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