Posts Tagged 'Mallard'

Queen Elizabeth Park: October 16th 2012

I had an appointment within walking distance of Queen Elizabeth Park yesterday, so I decided to see what was in the area on my way home. Plus with all the rain Vancouver had on the weekend I felt like I needed to get outside for a bit when the sun returned after being cooped up. Walking up Ontario Street I first came to the easternmost pond. A few Gadwalls were hanging about as well as two American Widgeon. A Great Blue Heron was also standing motionless up to its knees in a reedy section of the pond.

From there I made my way up the hill towards the Bloedel Conservatory. Along the fence line of the pitch and putt course I came across House Finch and Dark-eyed Junco. Also of note was a group of seven Northern Flickers. I would come across nine in total within the park. This group spent most of the time perched atop a leafless tree.

I continued moving up the hill coming to the lawn bowling facility. In the brush around here there was a lone Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a group of Bushtits and a gang of twelve American Robins sat surveying the area from the tops of the shrubs. At this point it started to drizzle lightly and I was worried it’d start to rain and I’d have to call it a day, but thankfully the rain abated!

On my way over the hill I found a single Fox Sparrow with a group of Song Sparrows and at one point a pair of Bald Eagles flew overhead. Next I came to the pond just to the north of the conservatory and here I discovered where all the Mallards were hanging out. I estimated around a hundred of them. A single Ring-billed Gull was also sitting along the pond’s edge with the Canada Geese.

As I was about to continue on a group of ten Northwestern Crows flew overhead in a hurry. Not really anything to get excited over but they did seem a little agitated so I stopped walking and had a look around. A second or two later I heard the call of a Raven and then another. Not sure what the crows were up to but those Ravens were not happy to see them! They continued chasing them to the south west around the base of the hill.

I checked out the northernmost pond on my way out of the park and found another small group of Gadwall. While I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary for this time of year in my hour long walk, it was still nice to get outside for a bit!

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Diving Mallards

Here’s a video that I shot last week at Ambleside Park showing a bunch of Mallards, with a few Lesser Scaup and American Widgeon, going after some bread that somebody threw into the pond:

It was quite intriguing to watch these dabbling ducks trying to force themselves down to the bottom of the pond while the Lesser Scaup easily slipped underwater and resurfaced outside the Mallard mêlée. The American Widgeon didn’t even bother trying to dive for the bread; perhaps, they didn’t want to sink to the level of the Mallards.

The individual that fed them also left behind the plastic bag that the bread came when there was a garbage bin only five or ten metres away. Personally I don’t feel that it is ethically responsible to be feeding wild animals of any sort, be they birds or bears, but littering is an entirely different level of idiocy.

Ambleside Park: December 12th 2009

A quick bit of birding was in order in between studying for exams and so I got out of the house and went to Ambleside for a little under an hour. The duck pond was partially iced over forcing the birds swim and forage in a smaller area. It was almost comical to watch some of the ducks gingerly walking across the ice as it began to crack underfoot.

Several Lesser Scaup were diving close to the edge of the pond and so it was possible to view them zooming around underwater from the trail. Their main source of food includes insects, crustaceans, and mollusks; although seeds and aquatic vegetation are also consumed in some areas (Austin et al 1998). I’m sure I’ve also seen them occasionally surface with a fish in their bill. Prey is primarily consumed underwater (Tome and Wrubleski 1988).

Other duck species included Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and large numbers of Mallard and American Widgeon. The resident Mute Swans were also foraging and occasionally bullying other ducks that got too close.

It’s amazing what birding can do in terms of recharging one’s batteries. Once I got back to studying it almost felt as though I had just woken up from a good night’s sleep.

References:

Austin, Jane E., Christine M. Custer and Alan D. Afton. 1998. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/338doi:10.2173/bna.338

Tome, M. W. and D. A. Wrubleski. 1988. Underwater foraging behavior of Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaups, and Ruddy Ducks. Condor 90:168-172.

Maplewood: December 6th 2009

Last weekend I took advantage of the clear skies and managed to get out birding before the end of term exam period began. The sun may have been out but cold temperatures combined with a stiff northerly wind led to an absolutely freezing outing… at least by Vancouver standards.

Upon arriving at the mudflats I noticed a Spotted Sandpiper foraging not far from the viewing area; it took flight shortly after and retreated to the northern corner of the mudflats preventing me from getting any pictures. Over at the Birding in BC forums there are some excellent photos taken by revs of what is undoubtedly the very same bird I observed. The checklist for Maplewood Flats (which can be found on the WBT’s website) lists the Spotted Sandpiper as “accidental; out of range” for the winter months making this an interesting and noteworthy sighting. Typically these birds begin moving south in mid-July and by the end of October this species has moved out of the province (Campbell et al 1990). I wonder why this particular sandpiper decided to stick around. Perhaps, it was a bird that bred further south and migrated north?

Also of note were twelve Greater Yellowlegs; a personal high count for Maplewood, and several Killdeer were foraging close to the viewing area.

It was nice to have the sun out while birding but I’m not used to it being that cold. How did the arctic front affect your birding?

References:

Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dame, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, and M. C. E. McNall. 1990. The birds of British Columbia Vol. 2. Diurnal birds of prey through woodpeckers. R. Br. Columbia Mus. Victoria.

Maplewood: November 29th 2009

Rain prevented me from getting out yesterday but there was a break over Maplewood this afternoon that allowed me to get out birding for a little over an hour.

I decided to check out the feeders near the entrance first and I was rewarded with a sighting of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in one of the trees to the east of the path. The bird appeared to be preening when I first sighted him but I noticed the occasional glance in the direction of the birds at the feeders (who were aware of the hawk as they were giving alarm calls).

Small birds form a significant part of the diet of Sharp-shinned Hawks but they are also known to take small mammals and large insects (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). During the 19th and early 20th century thousands of these birds were shot annually; often for no other reason than the fact that they ate song birds (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). Carcasses were often left to rot (Broun 1949). Shooting doubtlessly still occurs in some parts of North America but thankfully the senseless killing of the past two centuries is now history.

I had just finished snapping a few photographs when the hawk darted from its perch into the bushes nearby the feeders. I heard an awful shriek and all of the chickadees, finches, and sparrows fled the scene making quite a racket when they left. The hawk quickly flew to the south west and I was not able to find it again and determine if it had indeed captured one of the small birds. After a couple of minutes most of the birds had returned to feed on the seeds.

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats. A raft of at least two hundred Mallards were milling about on the water; many of them were resting or preening. This must have been a flock of migrants making their way to their respective wintering grounds as the species has the most prolonged fall migration of any other duck; meaning its not uncommon to find migrating birds in late November (Drilling et al 2002). Mallards often leave their breeding grounds only when water freezes and their food sources are covered with snow (Drilling et al 2002).

I’m glad the rain let up as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out birding this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans who may be reading this!

References:

Bildstein, Keith L. and Ken Meyer. 2000. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/482doi:10.2173/bna.482

Broun, M. 1949. Hawks aloft: the story of Hawk Mountain. Dodd, Mead, Co., New York.

Drilling, Nancy, Rodger Titman and Frank Mckinney. 2002. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/658doi:10.2173/bna.658