Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Okay, that’s not exactly how the day started yesterday morning…it sounded more akin to me whining about birding in the rain. I signed up for one of Audubon’s free birding outings, a chance to learn more about  local wintering waterfowl at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. I thought surely they would cancel due to the 2-3″ of rain predicted, but it was a rain or shine event, so I pulled my gear on and my butt out of the house and I’m glad I did!

The outing was led by Ron Escano, a birder of 40 years – he knows his stuff! He provided bird ID handouts, specifically on how to identify waterfowl using identification markers other than color field marks. This is important in low-lighted, cloudy, or rainy areas – basically anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll follow-up with a more detailed identification post, but for now, some highlights.

The Key Characters Used to Identify Waterfowl are:

  1. Relative Size
  2. Profile and Shape
  3. Behavior
  4. Black and White Field Marks
  5. Vocalizations
  6. Color Field Marks

Feeding behavior is extremely helpful for waterfowl identification.
Ducks can be broken into two groups depending on how they feed:

Dabblers– can walk on land, can launch off the water into flight without a long take off, and they feed with their rear-ends tipped up in the water. Examples: Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck.

Divers– cannot walk on land, need a long take-off to fly from water, and they feed by diving under water. Examples: Scaups, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Goldeneyes, Harlequin Duck, Ruddy Duck, and all other “sea” ducks.

Just observing a waterbird’s feeding behavior can quickly eliminate half of the species for identification. Easy peasy, right?

The park was beautiful. I can only imagine what it looks like in the spring with the flowers blooming. The birds also seem at ease here, providing a wonderful opportunity to see them up-close. I look forward to a return trip!

Oh and of course I saw Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!

Species to Add to My List: 4

Wood Duck
Lesser Scaup
Pied-billed Grebe
Gadwall

Thanks for following!

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