Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sleepy afternoon, with ducks

We're getting some spring weather at last; yesterday was bright and sunshiny, but with a cold, brisk wind. We went to Reifel Island bird sanctuary, where the trees and bush would shelter us somewhat.

This was the first time that I can remember going on a weekday. The paths were almost deserted, except for a few people mainly sitting or squatting quietly behind their tripods and long lenses. And the birds! I have never seen so many, nor so many different kinds on one visit as we did yesterday. I think that on weekends, many must be hiding from the crowds.

We have far too many photos for one blog post, so I'll do this in easy stages. Today, the dabbling ducks.

Mallards, of course:

(Added: well, half mallards, anyhow. Hugh says, in the comments, that the male is a mallard/pintail cross. He has photos of the same bird on his blog.)

In contrast to their usual weekend behaviour, when they mob us, demanding handouts, yesterday they sat calmly on the water, gossiping among themselves.

Mixing with them were coots (more on these, later), wigeons, pintails, Canada geese, a few northern shovelers, and, I think, a few greater scaup.

Wigeon, male

Pintail. Isn't he handsome? And he knows it.

Mallard, enjoying a joke

More mallards

Female wigeon? Sometimes it's quite hard to distinguish between them, especially with the mallard propensity for cross-breeding.


Mallard, up-ended

It was all very restful; the sun on our backs, the music overhead (red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, house finch, swallows, and something else, never quite identifiable), the contented quacking and croaking from the waterways, even the occasional photographer; "Stand here," several told me, "the light is right."

A deceptive peace. We stopped to photograph a party of coots, and I tempted them with bird seed. A few mallards came over to investigate. And one male objected to the presence of the second, too close to his mate, it seems. He attacked, and the other fought back. It wasn't just the usual irritable pecking at the underdog; this was a real battle, on water, then on land, behind us, in front of us, then back in the water again, rushing at each other, flailing and squawking angrily.

After a few minutes of this, I remembered my camera. Here they are:

Finally it ended. One mallard left, with the other pursuing for a few metres, then returning victorious to his mate. The neighbourly chatter resumed. All was well.


  1. Very nice pictures. Pintails are among my favourites. The male mallard in the first picture is a mallardXpintail hybrid. It may be the same bird I wrote about a while back.

    There are so many pictures to take at Reifel. Looking forward to what comes next...

  2. Hugh,

    You're right; I had forgotten about your pics. I think it is the same bird.

    I had doubts about it, because of the elongated tail and the white curve up the back of the head. I forgot to notice the bill.

    Pesky mallards and their messing around with the gene pool!

  3. Susannah,

    Not related to this post -- I replaced the bumblebee image. It seems to be working now. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  4. DiamondVVV18:53 pm

    Great shots, love the series. How are things in BC?

  5. Hi, "Boots"!

    BC is as usual, just a bit colder and wetter.

    I just realized, clicking through on your name, that somehow your blog has dropped off my Bloglines listing, so I have assumed that you weren't posting any more. I'll fix that right away.

    I was (and will be again) enjoying your posts from Central America.


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!