Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden III

I’m taking a duck class! Thanks to Audubon, I have access to expert guidance to learn about birds. It’s incredibly rewarding to learn what to focus my attention on when in the field. Learning field marks is the key to telling all those bunches of feathers apart from one another.

It was a sunny field trip to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Duck Class

I’ve learned about a new domestic duck, the Call Duck. Call ducks were originally called Coy or Decoy Ducks from the Dutch word de kooi meaning ‘trap.’ And that’s precisely what they were used for. Hunters would set out Call Ducks to lure target birds then funnel them in to their demise. According to Wiki, the use of Call Ducks in the U.S. for hunting was permanently banned in 1935 because it resulted in over-harvest. Now, Call Ducks are primarily pets or exhibition birds or ‘traps’ for beginner birders who think they’re mallards.

The variety at CSRG look like mini-mallards.

Call Duck

Not the greatest comparison-photo below, but check out the difference in bill size. The Mallard on the left’s bill is much larger than the Call Duck’s bill (bottom-center). Update: Thanks to Laura’s keen eye, the left mallard has been identified as a possible hybrid due to the lack of typical brown chest, so I attached the original photo to include a true mallard in the upper right corner. So now there’s three different “mallards”! Duck madness!

The sunny day at the park brought out the iridescence in many of the birds.

Male Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck

Female Wood Duck

Female Wood Duck

Bufflehead

Male and Female Bufflehead

Female Wood Duck

Female Wood Duck

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Look at the size of those Carp!

Look at the size of those Carp!

Male Lesser Scaup

Male Lesser Scaup

Female Lesser Scaup

Female Lesser Scaup

My buddy the Hybrid Canada Goose

My buddy the Hybrid Canada Goose

These pictures of the Red-winged Blackbird are my favorite of the day.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

It reminds me of my first picture of a Red-winged Blackbird this year at Whitaker Ponds. What is that fuzzy dark bird shape? Thank goodness for the new camera.

Red-winged Blackbird

A nice surprise flew over our heads at the gardens. Eventually we caught a visual of the Green Heron across Crystal Springs Lake! A new bird for me (#90!).

Green Heron

Green Heron

Thus ends another glorious visit to the Rhododendron Gardens.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden II

What do you do when you have a couple of extra hours in the morning before Barre class? Go birding, of course!

This second trip to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden revealed what it looks like when it’s not pouring rain – spoiler alert!- it’s exceptionally gorgeous.

IMG_1256

I took some decent photos, I think. How kindly of the birds to pose for me.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow singing its heart out

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

American Crow

American Crow

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

This one puzzled me...turns out it's a Hybrid Canada Goose! According to Whatbird, it's a Domestic X Canada Goose - yep, that happens.

This one puzzled me…turns out it’s a Hybrid Canada Goose! According to Whatbird, it’s a Domestic X Canada Goose – yep, that happens.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck in a tree

Wood Duck in a tree

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

I can’t wait for baby Wood Ducks! (in May?)

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

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!