Sunday, March 25, 2007

Important marsh updates!

First off, I realize that I've been really neglecting my blog of late; my apologies. I've been busy with my trig midterm, a three-day snot-fest that refuses to give me back my good health, and all kinds of other things. I will try to do better and get on the blog daily, which was my original goal.

Now, to the birding news of the weekend. First, yesterday, I was finally able to get down to this little pond right along College Ave. near downtown; I've passed that pond a million times, but never when I've had a moment to stop. The pond is next to some university housing just east of campus, and the first thing to catch my interest was this sign posted as you drive into the little "complex" (one little apartment structure and some mechanical-looking buildings):

Wow! I'm not sure just where these rabbits came from, or why someone would release domestic rabbits to run wild in an area right near the woods that lead up to Mount Nittany and other wild areas around the city, but I pressed on--slowly!
I was hoping to see something a little more exotic than Canada geese and mallards, but that was pretty much all I saw. Here are some photos I took:

There were two black-and-white ducks, which I'm guessing are "domestic" ducks found on farms and stuff. Note the size differential:

The big guys' quacks were much more like the "quack" you'd hear on a See-and-Say toy than the mallards, whose gentle "mahps" are always kind-of soothing and sweet.
This mallard seemed to be having an irridescence malfunction; perhaps he's not quite mature enough to have all the green head feathers? Or maybe he's very mature and this is what grandpa ducks look like?

There were a few Canada geese as well; it looked like a chiropractor's waiting room here:

Later, on the main north-south street through town, I saw this on the lawn of a local small business:

I guess he'd probably been hit on the street, then had just enough energy to get about 4-5 feet up to safety. Sad. Strangely, though, there was no smell. Maybe he wasn't hit that hard?

Today, the sun was out and the temps were in the 60s! It was a beautiful spring day, most of which I spent napping on the couch while trying to stay awake enough to do my trig homework. Did I mention I got an 80 on my trig midterm? Whew.

About 5:30 I went outside and sat in the backyard, just soaking in the sounds and sights of the marsh in spring: the peepers' insistent calls for mates, the Canada geese's perturbed honks, the distant knocking of a woodpecker searching for food. A lone turkey vulture flew over the marsh, gliding silkily on the wind. As the sun lowered in the sky, the ducks began to appear, coming in low and landing on the marsh ponds. I decided to get a better look at the ponds, so I walked along the road that fronts the marsh.

Last year, all I'd seen on the marsh in the way of ducks was the usual mallard and maybe a few black ducks. This time, however, I saw some mergansers! Now, forgive the photos; it was late in the day, and I was shooting through the binocs while sitting on a guard rail, trying not to get myself killed by passing traffic:

Red-breasted merganser? I tried to get a closer look:

I saw what I believe was a hooded merganser as well, though I couldn't get a shot of him at all. But his little swooshy-back headdress was evident through the binocs.
Next, I watched a belted kingfisher diving after (I'm guessing) little baby frogs and stuff; he's there in the middle of the frame:

I even got him as he was returning from a food-dive, though the focus is pretty bad:

I watched long enough to see a second kingfisher in a nearby tree! Last year, I only saw the one, so this is definitely exciting news! First some mergansers, then two kingfishers! Wow. I can't wait until more species come back; last year, we suspected there might be a rookery of green herons, and we had an American bittern. I guess it's still a little early to see them.

All in all, it was a great day on the marsh. The temperature fell quickly as the sun set, but still--it's obvious that spring is making her grand entrance!


LauraHinNJ said...

I've missed you while you've been off doing other stuff! Trig - yuck!

I don't know what's up with that rabbit-crossing sign, but I don't like the looks of it! College kids letting their pets loose in the woods?

I think the ducks in both of your photos are Hooded Mergs - the male doesn't have his crest up, but the colors on the flanks look like Hoodies to me.

I would love to live on a marsh like you do - I imagine the Peepers must be deafening! Do they call all night too?

Happy Spring!

Mary said...

Welcome back and congratulations on that Trig exam! You had a great day with the birds and I love your stories. And, I can't say how much I am silly over DUCK FEET!

dguzman said...

Laura: Yeah, I really don't know what's going on with the domestic rabbits outdoors. I mean, they would breed their lighter coloring into the natural population, which would only make them more visible to predators, right? That doesn't sound like a good idea!
And yes, the peepers are already getting pretty loud; sometimes it's so loud that you can almost hear your eardrums vibrating, like they're getting overloaded! But I still love them. They're so cute.

Mary, I love duck feet too! I have some other pics of them with their feet in funny positions. I'll have to post those for you.

Larry said...

Looks like a great place to go birding-Hooded Mergansers and Kingfishers are two cool looking birds-love the rattle call the Kingfishers let out when they fly.

dguzman said...

I love that kingfisher call too--very distinctive! They're fascinating to watch; so patient and still, waiting for the right moment, then zip! they're in the water and back out again, with a mouthful of something good to eat. It's fun to watch them. The two played chase for a while as well, flying all around the marsh, then finally settling back to their evening hunting.

dguzman said...

Oh--do you suppose they weren't playing, but were actually arguing over territory? Territoriality is another bird behavior I haven't read enough about...