Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speculum Feathers in Mallards

Speculum, Latin for "mirror", refers to the patch of iridescent color on the secondary feathers (wings) of most duck species. 

Both male and female mallards show this feature, edged in white.

On a drab winter's day, the purple-blue-violet color is a welcome sight!

This is an excellent feature to distinguish a mallard from an American black duck in flight. Since both ducks are the same size and shape, it's good to know the black duck's dark blue to purple speculum is without white borders.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Symbol of the Sun: Raptors and Us

bald eagle

Last Saturday, the Nature Museum in Grafton hosted a presentation by Michael Clough from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum (SVNHM). Mike's talk was titled "Symbol of the Sun: Raptors and Us" and explored the relationship between humans and birds of prey that goes back thousands of years

red-tailed hawk
The program included an interactive slideshow about our history with raptors. He brought a bald eagle, American kestrel, red-tailed hawk and a saw-whet owl that SVNHM cares for, all are recovered from injuries but unable to be released back to the wild.

 A recent addition to SVNHM, this female bald eagle was hit by a car in Wyoming and will be used in the museum's educational programs. She's very impressive although only weighs 11 pounds.

northern saw-whet owl
Equally impressive is our smallest northeastern owl (this one with a permanent eye injury) who weighs between 3 and 5 ounces!

If you missed the presentation, go to the Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival in Bellows Falls on Sunday May 5th from 10am to 4pm. Michael Clough will be there with raptors and other wildlife from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro, Vermont, located on Route 9. Or just go visit the museum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Turners Falls Ducks

mallard directing the band!
 The almost tame mallards at Unity Park were the only birds close enough for some great shots. At Barton's Cove, where a greater variety of ducks had congregated, viewing was less than desirable.

2 male canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks
Interestingly, one source says the canvasback's name comes from the fact that the drake's sides, back, and belly are white with a fine pattern resembling the weave of canvas.

Even at a distance, the redhead and canvasback are easily distinguishable. The canvasback has a very white back, while the redhead is grey. Their profiles are different also, the redhead has a very "duck-like" bill when compared to the canvasback's sloping forehead that gives him a wedge-shaped look.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gulls and Waterfowl

ring-billed gulls

Gerry was visiting a friend in Fairhaven, Massachusetts and brought his camera along. The gulls and brant pictures were taken in Fairhaven and the mute swan pictures were at Betty's Neck in Lakeville.

great black-backed gull
great black-backed gull in flight
herring gull
ring-billed gull - love the shadows!
mute swans
Non-native mute swans are considered an invasive species. One of the world's most aggressive species, especially while nesting and raising their young, mute swans drive out native waterfowl and other wetland  wildlife. Pretty to look at but..........
hooded merganser and mute swan
Keeping an eye on the "competition"!