Waterfowl

When it’s below freezing but sunny like it was this weekend, it is usually a good thing for waterfowl at the city water treatment ponds which don’t ice over. I added six new species to the green list, which felt good since my hunch paid off and also because my outing to Fox Island last week netted zero new birds for the year.

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Double-crested Cormorant

Riding the greenway along the river, my first interesting sighting was a bird mixed in with the Canada Geese. Double-crested Cormorant is not a bird I would usually expect to associate with typical waterfowl, but this one was swimming along with all of the others. It made an interesting size comparison. A diving Pied-billed Grebe was also a nice early surprise.

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American Black Duck

At the ponds, there were also some mixers-in with the abundant geese. American Black Duck is a bird I don’t see very often. This pair plus Northern Pintail made for two species that I missed last year, and it is good to have them back on the list.

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Gadwall

Gadwall are not ducks that I see on land very often. I don’t recall ever seeing their speckled underbellies before. From afar, they are smudgy gray and black. But at close range they are actually good looking birds!

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Greater White-fronted Geese

Earlier in the week I was driving back from an appointment and decided to seek out a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese that had been reported from just outside the city limits in a famously productive field. As I turned onto the appropriate road, a flock of about 60 birds flew low over my vehicle for an impressive entrance of a life bird. Not green, but I will take it.

This winter seems to be the winter of the goose in Indiana. Snow and Greater White-fronted are common in the western half of the state but not so much in the east. However, this year both species are making a huge push all over it. Ross’s Geese, an uncommon state bird in general, also seem to be much more abundant than in years past. I have read that this is a trend that is getting stronger, so we’ll see how common these birds become in the near future. In my lifetime I have seen five Snow Geese, this singular flock of Greater White-fronteds, one Ross’s, and zero Cackling.

In other news, I have launched the other nerdy project that I have alluded to on this blog before: another blog, History of a Home. If having two blogs on extremely esoteric subjects doesn’t make me cool, then nothing will.

Ducks

Yesterday was one of the best days for birding so far this year. It was sunny and in the 50s, and the ice at Eagle Creek is gone (for now anyway, we’re supposed to have a high of 19 on Tuesday). The ducks were out in full force enjoying the weather.

Mallard

Mallard

Mallards were the dominant species of the day like usual, but I realized I have never bothered to take a picture of them. So to be fair despite their commonness, here you go.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

Also abundant were Common Goldeneyes, my life bird from last week. They did not like being watched, and the best photo I could get was of one duck who was preoccupied with fighting off Ring-Billed Gulls and did not notice my approach.

Hooded Merganser

#038 Hooded Merganser

Year bird #038 and a lifer as well were these Hooded Mergansers. The male of this species is possibly the coolest looking waterfowl I have ever seen. He kept raising and lowering his crest to show off. The ladies loved it, as evidenced in the photo above.

American Black Duck

#040 American Black Duck

Had I not been on the lookout specifically for ducks, I very well might have overlooked the flock of American Black Ducks hanging out near the mudflats at the far north edge of the park. At first glance, they look like the Mallards that they tend to socialize with. Year bird #040 and a lifer as well (bringing my life list to 186).

Other birds seen this week for the first time in 2013 were #037 Eastern Meadowlark (seen at the Indianapolis Regional Airport on Friday afternoon), #039 Great Blue Heron (seen alongside the duck action at Eagle Creek), and #041 Red-Shouldered Hawk (two of which I wouldn’t have seen if they weren’t busy screaming at each other in the woods at Eagle Creek).