What the Duck Is It?

I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer.  This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed.  Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used.  Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.

I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures.  This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides.  This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version.  It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds.  Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description.  After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.

But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live.  We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife.  I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination.  One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position.  He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up.  5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position.  It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret).  This went on for the entire time we were at the lake.  Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.

The dude was just showing off for the ladies.  This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way).  A quick funny story.  On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path.  Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake).  She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces.  Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined.  Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.

Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump.  Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.

None of them are fantastic shots by any means, but they did get captured for the collection.  This particular duck  was fairly close to the bank so the shot isn’t that bad.  As a guess, it might be a female Gadwall, but according to the description (of course no picture) the beak is suppose to be orange on the edges.  Without any other discerning features it is hard to tell

Now this particular one has some unique feather coloring.  Solid brown head, mixture of whites and darker colors for the body.  Unlike the previous shot, this was at the glass extent and had troubles picking it out in the pads.  The brown head leads me to either a Northern Pintail or possibly a Redhead, but again, the white pattern doesn’t fit with the reference specimens in the guides.

You would assuming an all white feathered duck with a dark head would be an easy find.  This, however, is not the case.  The closest appears to be a Common Merganser but the beak should be orange and a little more coloring on the back.  A Loon was under consideration due to the head shape, but there is usually a lot more black checkered on the body.

This one drove me nuts.  Plenty of color, pretty distinctive pattern, should have been easy.  Wrong, nothing matched the head pattern with the body pattern.  This is likely a female, but a tough guess beyond that.  Punting on this one.

And finally, this creature.  Again, with the rather distinctive markings, but zero matches in the guide.  It was similar to the one above, but the heads are definitely different.  I could be tempted with the Pintail again, or even a Gadwell male, but zero confidence in that.

Well that finishes up the Ducks from Yellowstone region series.  Hoping maybe one of my visitors can shed some light on my mystery pictures.  The other possibility is they are new to the region and thus that particular guide has overlooked them.  Maybe the next time one of you are out there (hint hint) they can print out this post and see if a ranger happens to be in the area.

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