Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Birds, Ducks and a Muskrat!

The other day I heard someone knocking - but there was no one at the door. Bill told me to check the roof. I was hoping to find Santa, but instead I found this Northern Flicker pecking on our wood shingles.

I discouraged that behavior - but not before I took a picture ...or two ...or three.

I'm not sure why we still have a Robin in the yard - I thought they migrated. Isn't he wonderful?

This is Quail Lake, part of a small, 113 acre park in Colorado Springs. There is a mile long walking trail around the lake, a boat launch for non-motorized boats, a children's playground and family picnic area and two viewing platforms. Apparently, the fishing is good as we saw several fisher-people - but we were there hoping to see a variety of ducks.

We saw the usual variety of Canadian Geese, Mallards and a few Goldeneye before spotting something new; this is an American Wigeon drake. The black-tipped bill and iridescent bright green eye patch is the key to identification.

This, I believe, is either an immature drake (male) Wigeon or a male with "eclipse plumage." I had to look that term up and learned that after breeding season in the late summer and fall most male ducks molt (lose their feathers) and change from the bright and colorful breeding plumage into a drab, female-like “eclipse plumage.” This one has the eye patch - but it was dull grey. Boy do all these variations make identification tough!

And this one is the female American Wigeon - no eye patch. This family must be just passing by on their way south as, according to my books, they do not stay in this part of the country.

The House Finch is a very common bird around here - but I liked this picture with the pine cones.

House Sparrows are also very common - but this female was posing so nicely that I couldn't resist taking her picture.

These are, of course, the very easy-to-identify male Mallards. Look at their tails and the way the hind feathers curl up.

Bill tells me these are the "trophy feathers" - and duck hunters like to show them off by putting them in their hat bands. They are also used to make fishing flies.

What are Sea Gulls doing swimming on a Colorado Lake?

I named the white duck Baby Huey. He is actually a Pekin Duck, and I learned that he is a domesticated breed used primarily for egg and meat production. It was bred from the Mallard in China and brought to the United States in the late 1800's. Due to its friendly nature, many people keep them as pets. It is widely believed that Donald Duck is modeled after a Pekin duck and the mascot of the insurance company Aflac is a Pekin duck. Baby Huey was probably some one's pet that was released in the park.

Baby Huey is trying to fit in with his distant cousins.

After leaving Quail Lake we headed back to Fountain Creek Regional Park. We were greeted by a group of Pied-billed Grebes diving for food.

The male Hooded Merganser is spectacular! I took so many pictures of the Mergansers, I exhausted the battery in my camera and filled my 4 GB disk.

We don't usually see a Great Blue Heron in a tree!

He looks much more at home wading in the shallow water looking for supper.

More Goldeneye Ducks.

And this was a surprise: a Muskrat! I don't think I've ever seen one before. He looked like a big rat with webbed feet.

Bill and I have been cooking today - making side dishes to take to Thanksgiving dinner at his daughter's. The house smells delicious. I made two pumpkin pies, some cranberry relish and a sweet potato casserole. Bill is making the ham and scalloped corn casserole. His son-in-law, Tim is making the turkey with dressing - and we can't wait!

I wish you all a Thanksgiving filled with family, good food and wonderful blessings.

No comments: