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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Waterfowl Puzzle

waterfowl on Pentwater Lake

Today, I went out on my first real assignment as a Field Data Collector. I took a couple of minutes and stopped by Pentwater Lake where there are always a flock of waterfowl in the winter. They were far enough away that I had to use the full extent of the telephoto, which means that closeups aren't very clear. But it's fun to try to figure out what is there.

Canada geese on Pentwater Lake

I'm not very good at identifying waterfowl, but I'm trying to improve. Hmmm... it looks like I can eliminate about 98% of what's there- plain old Canada geese Branta canadensis. See the white chinstraps? That was too easy. What else can we see. Swans...

Tundra swan on Pentwater Lake

Oooh. This is nice. The swans aren't the common (and alien) mute swans, but they are tundra swans, Cygnus columbianus. I've edited this since first posting to correct this ID. See how the eye is separated from the black bill?- that's a key for tundra vs. trumpeter swans. I love seeing these native swans!


I've learned this little guy pretty well, too. It's a bufflehead Bucephala albeola. I think they are like little clowns. I scanned all my pictures carefully, but this is the only one I could find, and he was nice enough to be flapping for the picture.

Common Merganser

Here's my mystery of the waterfowl puzzle. Not a very good look at what this duck might be, is it? We've now had guesses of: lesser scaup, and gadwall because of those white patches on the trailing edge of the wings. But, I had a long email conversation with a local bird expert tonight, Dave Dister, and he's quite sure it's a female common merganser, Mergus merganser. He's writing a book on the birds of Mason County, so he knows his stuff. We did some sleuthing with the picture I took just after this one, and you can just barely see their distinctive head shape in the next shot.

I'm hoping that with the driving around a four-county area that I'll be doing, I'll be able to find many interesting stories to bring you in the coming weeks.

See Bird Days for more buffleheads
See Ski Outing for even more buffleheads
See On Lost Lake to compare the tundra to the mute swan


RNSANE said...

Wonderful pictures, Joan. The swans are so elegant and the last picture is just too cute.

By the way, my friendship with Jo Olivieri began long before our blogging days. She and I met about five years ago at a venue of our jazz singer friend, Sony Holland ( she used to work, helping her as a sort of personal secretary ). We began seeing each other for lunch, going together to Sony's gigs. Jo started her blog and helped me do mine. She'd already published a couple of poetry chapbooks and helped me get my book published.

I have met one other pure blogging person and hope to meet others whenever I you, for instance. This retirement, though,has really interfered with any travel possibilities.

Ann said...

I can't help in identifying anything since I can't even tell you what some of the birds are that visit my own front
Love the shots and how great to have a job that gives you the opportunity to see some great sights.

Ferd said...

Nice waterfowl shots! :-)

humble opinion said...

The last photo was a nice take off. I like it.

Hope my entry is chosen. I wish... LOL

spotted face said...

Nice waterfowl pics! Who do you collect data for?

I do something similar. I am a surveyor for the North American Amphibian Monitoring Project, for frogs and toads.

I'll take a stab at the mystery pic. I believe that duck is a gadwall - the white speculum almost assures me of it.

Thanks for the cool post. I love ducks.

rainfield61 said...

So good..

Enjoying while working.

Sharkbytes said...

Carmen- I would love to meet you, but with both of us broke I don't see that happening in the near future.

Ann- that will be one of the major perks

Ferd- I thought you might be able to help me ID that last one!

sir rob- so sorry... but keep trying. This was actually Ann's first time to win.

Casey- thanks for the tip. I think you are probably right. The scaup would have white sides, right? I see no hint of that.

rainfield- the best!

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