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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cabeza Roja

I was driving down to the Dinosaur Ridge hawkwatch (near Morrison, Colorado) last weekend on highway 93 south of Boulder. There's a pond along the road just north of Golden, and every spring brings a flock of migrant Redheads to the pond for a few weeks. Even though the road is busy, there's a wide paved shoulder and flat grass past that, so I pulled well off, put on my hazzard lights, and settled in to shoot out of my window, using the car as my blind. At first the birds were a bit leery and swam to the far side of the pond, but after about 10 minutes they decided I wasn't a threat and returned to their activities. The morning light was fantastic, and the blue sky reflected in the water beautifully. Many of the Redheads were paired up, with the attendant drake sticking close to his mate. These drakes often held their head high- I don't know if this is to have a better view of potential rivals or if it is a display posture for their mate to see (or both.) This hen was being pursued by several suitors- often quite vigorously! I wonder if her mate fell asleep at the wheel, giving his rivals an opportunity, or if she was still unpaired. Whatever the case, she was getting a lot of attention.
Another cool display the males occasionally did was to throw their heads all the way back, much like Common Goldeneyes do but without their accompanying wheezy peent. The display happens really quickly- this composite of 6 sequential frames happened in one second (I was firing 5 frames per second, so if you count the leftmost image as time 0, each one after that is 1/5 of a second later.)Another snappy motion was the initiation of each dive. I kept trying to get a dive on "film" but mostly got their tails only or a wake in the water- they gave little sign that they were about to dive and my reflexes were having trouble keeping up. I finally got a shot of a drake just entering the water:Then I found this funky image as I was editing my shots- looks like a major contortionist maneuver to get his head over there, doesn't it? Actually, it is one male coming up just as another is diving nearby.A muskrat threaded its way through all of the ducky action, carrying some nice greens back to its den:There were also a few Ring-necked Ducks out on the pond, but they kept to the deeper water in the middle so I couldn't get close-up shots. The light was good enough to see the namesake purplish ring around their neck, though- something I don't often see. Like Red-bellied Woodpecker or Long-billed Dowitcher, the name Ring-necked Duck gives little practical help on pertinent field marks- Ring-billed Duck would be much more apt (and is a nickname given the species by duck hunters.)


Tom said...

Bill- Wonderful photographs, I've tried once to capture the diving duck in mid dive, but you have captured this much better than I! And a love the cropped shot with the ducks all lined up. Very nice.


Mel said...

GREAT pictures!!

Tabib said...


The first photo is stunning, award quality!

Best regards,