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.
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...
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.
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