Alright, as promised, I have actually gone through and found some (recognizable) pictures of things we’ve found at the new wetlands/lake (the two bodies of water are separated by a thin stretch of woods and brush). The main advantage of this new area is that it’s more natural and isolated than the big lake, which means that it’s got more fun things to see that haven’t been found yet by other people.
For instance, hobbit houses that hide inside the trees!
Ok, just kidding. It was at least worth a try. Although this clearing was actually hiding a red-shouldered hawk (which you can’t see) that was about 12.5 inches from swiping me in the face in its attempt to fly off when I surprised it. The lake, does, however, have someone who decided to stick a hammock in the middle of it, which bears wondering how they climb up into it.
Also, added bonus of the area is that my favorite bird ever is all over the place and isn’t afraid to announce that fact.
If you’ve got a great eye (or you’ve figured out our general latitude), you know this is a Carolina chickadee.But do you know what these are:
These are all ring-billed gulls going home for the night; it’s just really hard to see here without having a front view of the birds to see their bills. Something you can pick out around here just from a silhouette are the mourning doves:
The discerning feature here is the pointy tail (which is unique to the mourning dove around here) and general dove-like appearance, which could also be confused with the terrestrial prairie chicken if you’re just going off getting as close to moving vehicles as possible without getting run over.
The real winners at the lake, though, are the ducks.
There actually aren’t that many geese here, which leaves room for about 50 ducks to graze around the lake and about 30 more to paddle around the wetlands portion of the area. Today’s fun duck of the day is definitely the northern shoveler, which has a long spade-like beak that is unmistakable (We named the male here Pinocchio-I like to imagine he was laying pick-up lines all over his companion. We also keep seeing him hiding with some other ducks, so I guess he just wants to be a real..gadwall?).
There are also some very common ducks that hide out here, including ring-necked ducks (below) and redheads. No word on when the blue-footed boobies will move up here for the anatomic coloration win.
We actually thought that the male ring-necks in this photo were scaups (which are also common here in winter) until we saw the photos close up and realized they had white and black rings on their bills, which makes them most definitely ring-necks. The name makes total sense since there aren’t rings on their actual necks, just on their beaks.
For other fun birds, here are two that you can tell apart in one simple way– the buffleheads have white that wraps around the back of their heads, and the hooded merganser has a black stripe separating the two white portions of his head.
Fun story about the buffleheads: They were actually all three in a line and were following each other across the lake. First the lead duck would do something (dive, poke up his crest, preen, swim faster, etc), then the second in line would copy him, and then the third in line would do his due diligence so he wouldn’t get left out. It was pretty hilarious to watch them mirror each other.
Some other fun things we’ve seen have actually been because of the new pup, Eli. Because he’s in training, we practice walking and every so often (say once every 5-7 minutes) we have him sit and do something for us (assuming his attention span for the afternoon is more than 2 minutes long). The other day, we had him sit and wait for us, then as we were giving him his treat (Read: I’m a vet student; the pets get spoiled) a cottontail darted out right in front of him across the path. Ok, surprising, but it works.
About 50 feet down, we asked him to sit again. Once again, as we were praising him, 7 huge white-tail does jumped out of the brush from a foot away. I’m not sure if it says much for the pup’s surprise or ours, but we all just watched them run at breakneck speed right by us and jump over the 6 foot tall red cedars on the other side of the path.
After that, Eli kept trying to sit every 3 feet.