Friday, March 6, 2015

Birds along the Winooski River

Male and female Common goldeneyes
Zac asked me if I had a name for the spot we went today, and I don't, but perhaps I should. Turkey's Respite? Willow Wonka and the Tangled Edge? It's an old largely forgotten stretch bordered sharply by the Winooski River, the Interstate, and Patchen Rd. It's quite a few acres (about 40) and seems to be major habitat for quite a few species. Over the years, I've spotted otters, beavers, muskrats, red and gray foxes, deer, turkey, and lots more making use of it - and only very seldom do I ever see people.

2 male (bottom), 2 female (top) goldeneyes

With eager anticipation to see what ducks were in the open water, we crept up to the edge. The mallards seem largely indifferent to my approach, but I'd spooked off the other ducks the two previous times and hadn't gotten a good luck at them. Today, we wound up getting a good look at some goldeneyes hunting along the edge of the ice. There were about 25 in total. 

Flock of goldeneyes flying over
Waterfowl aren't a specialty of mine, so it was great to get to spend some time looking at the difference between the males and females. The males have significantly more white on their throats and bellies. The females are much grayer and have just a thin collar of white between their brownish heads and grayish chests.

Female (immature?) buffleheads
Initially, we supposed that they were all goldeneyes. When I got home and was looking at the images, I realized that the drab birds I assumed were female or juveniles were actually another species - note the white patch behind the eyes. Turns out these little gals were females buffleheads. It makes sense in retrospect. When we finally spooked the birds, three of the four drab birds flew upstream, the forth ambled slowly to where two male goldeneyes were feeding.

Three female buffleheads. No males around...
Besides wanting to check out the open water and see what was utilizing it, I wanted to show Zac a patch that'd been cratered by deer. Shortly after looking at that section we spotted a turkey. We eventually saw three turkeys in total.

Wid Turkey

Other notable birds, were a couple birds of prey. In our field trip to Addison last week I realized that I'd always thought red-tailed hawk wings to be much lighter on top, but I keep seeing red-tails with really dark tops to the wings. 

Red-tailed hawk soaring overhead

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