Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Duck, Duck, Duck, GEESE!

It's too cold. We've had snow flurries and frigid winds making it even more miserable - but we've still kept busy spending time with family and friends and managed to get in some great bird watching and duck hunting adventures along the way. We visited Kettle Lakes at the Air Force Academy, Fountain Creek Regional Park just south of Colorado Springs and Denver's Washington Park.

This is mama Mallard - common as mud, but still beautiful in her own way. She is often under appreciated because the male Mallards are so striking. She swam over to us as we were walking in Washington Park - a wonderful, upscale and well-used urban park in south central Denver. I've never been there when I haven't seen dozens of strollers, joggers and dog-walkers enjoying the outdoors in this active, well-kept neighborhood - no matter what the weather is like.

In another smaller, more secluded pond, we found a group of Northern Shovelers. The male has the broad black bill while his mate looks more like mama Mallard - until you see her large, spatula-shaped bill. I took dozens of pictures of headless birds - tails in the air - as they spend most of their time with their heads in the water straining out small organisms with the comblike edges of their bills. This is the first time I've identified Northern Shovelers in Colorado - maybe because I've never seen their heads before!

Mama Mallard and her handsome mate. This pair was swimming at Kettle Creek - a secret group of small lakes and noisy open spaces nestled between the traffic of busy I-25 and glider practice at the Air Force Academy. This time of year, we don't see more than the occasional fisher-person during our walks. This is the same place we saw the Brown Bear last June (see blog entry, June 1, 2009).

There was lots to see at Fountain Creek Regional Park - a real gem with well-marked trails that weave through rustic open spaces and small lakes. There are viewing blinds to aid bird-watchers while not disturbing the wildlife. This magnificent pair of ducks are Hooded Mergansers. The male is on the left and one of his ladies is on the right.

It was interesting watching this flashy male as he stayed close to the opposite side - hidden in the brush. He only occasionally swam out far enough for me to get a decent picture. My camera was on full zoom and this image is cropped more than usual - but he was certainly worth the wait!

This is the female Hooded Merganser, who would swim back and forth from the male to the open water usually in a small group of sisters.

Another gorgeous duck - a Green-winged Teal. There were several at Fountain Creek.

This, along with the next two pictures, are of Common Goldeneye - obviously named for their bright yellow eye.

The male Goldeneye has more white on the body, darker head and a white spot between his eye and bill. The placement of this spot is important in identification.

The female is darker overall with a white collar and brown head. We saw Common Goldeneye at all of the lakes we visited.

A lone Double-crested Cormorant at Kettle Lake. He's there every time we visit. I love the golden colors of the sun reflecting on the water around the Cormorant.

This is a female Bufflehead. Notice the white oval-shaped spot BEHIND the eye. We saw her at Kettle Creek Lake - and would have loved to see her mate - but he was nowhere to be found.

The ever-present Canadian Geese. I see them - lots of them - mostly in urban parks and open spaces. They are nice to look at but where ever they are - they leave mounds of slimy, ugly green droppings - everywhere! But, to their credit, they are amazing to watch when flocks of them fly in and land together on the water. They announce their arrival with loud honks and seeing them is, to me, synonymous with the upcoming Holiday Season. I almost expect to see red ribbons around their necks - until I step in yet more poop - when I want to see something else around their necks.

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