I have just been informed there are only 31 days in May. For normal people this fact probably does not generate much concern, unless there is some form of payment due in which case you might feel a little concerned or perhaps agitated depending on the relationship of the debt to the individual’s bank account. This is not at all how I happen to feel at the moment because that all seems trivial compared to full on PANIC when you realize that there are no more days to procrastinate before getting the final post out for the month. I pretty much lucked out today. The post topic was already decided last week and the images were post processed a few days earlier. That leaves only the witty banter and insightful dialog that accompanies each post which (once again thanks to my brother) is now only done on the day of the post. But, I am sure you are not hear to read about my trials and tribulations you want birds… and not just any birds, you want a MUTANT BIRD that no one else has ever seen before.
Setting the stage, if you recall during the first of these Emiquon posts we noticed an odd duck on our way out of the refuge. I then proceeded to relate the discovery of the American Shoveler. There was actually another sighting that occurred right before we noticed the shoveler. Something about it seemed a little odd but I could not put my finger on exactly what it was. Then when we noticed the shovelers, I passed it off as simply being the new bird out of the water. It was not until I went back to prep for this post series that I remembered those previous shots. Having now become very familiar with the shoveler I can safely say.. that was NO SHOVELER!
Take a quick look at this shot and tell me what bird you think it is…. ready .. go
Remember what came to mind and hit the jump for further discussion
If you were like Linda and I, you passed this off as a Mallard. This is likely due to the unique green head and the yellowish beak. If this is the case then might have had some lingering doubt … or you really have no idea what a Mallard normally looks like. First off all, the rest of the feathering is not right at all. Mallards only have a white strip on their neck, not the width displayed in this specimen. Secondly, the solid brown breast and body is right out. So the coloring was definitely wrong, but there’s more. I have never seen a Mallard with that long of a neck or maintain that tall posture when walking about on land. This posture instead looks like your common Canadian Goose. This does not really ring true either. Geese generally have black heads (with a white stripe), black beak, black neck and gray-white body coloring. Totally perplexed, I spent many an hour trying to identify this …errr.. mutant. Thanks to pouring over Google Images, a possible explanation was discovered. Thanks to this bird site (link here), it was learned that Mallards like a little strange. Seems like they will sample the local pond inhabitants which can produce some interesting mutations (note, see the odd colored duck on the referenced site). Based on all the evident above, we are going with a Mallard-Goose. Just in case you are wondering, there was no “shopping” on that bird – honestly! (you can even ask Linda if you are one of those people who always trust whatever she says.. and you know who I am talking about).
It seems unfair to just highlight the unique birds that frequent this Refuge. There is a actually a wide variety of birds throughout the area. One you might expect is the Ring-Billed Gull. Based on the brownish coloring of the wings, the specimen below appears to be a a maturing juvenile or possibly a first winter – the lack of speckles on the breast leans to the latter.
Gulls are interesting in just how polar people’s opinions are of them. This opinion appears to be directly related to how common they are to where they live. I’ll never forget the lady in Mackinac Island who was thoroughly disgusted with me because I was bothering to photograph one of their local gulls. Apparently I was showing them to much affection and instead should have been snapping off their necks at a frantic pace… sorry lady, that’s not how I roll. How could you not admire the grace in flight these birds exhibit.
The Tree Swallow below was added to prove that these birds do actually land and stand still for at least the amount of time it took to get these shots. I’ve tried time and time again to photograph these birds, but they are so hyper I can never get one decent enough to post. One thing for sure, there isn’t going to be any BiF (Bird in Flight) shot of these swallows when the Beast is in hand. Trying to focus on that small dart of a bird is hopeless at best.
This particular specimen was already sporting the spring coloring likely due to the warm weather we experienced this Winter/Spring. They are insectivorous and should have no problem finding food in the area – another by-product of the warmer temperatures. If they only knew about the insane amount insects up at Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake they wouldn’t waste their time around here – more to come on that photo outing by the way. For the curious, this is one of those birds whose population is actually expanding – take that you pesky mosquitoes!
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and that time for the Emiquon National Wildlife posts is now at hand. To close it out, I’m going with the bird that rarely gets any respect here in the Midwest due to their abundance and probably more accurately a result of being unable to easily identify them. I swear there are 30,000 variances of this bird and doesn’t even account for the differentiation in the coloring between females and juveniles. After studying all the reference guide books and trying to narrow down the options based on the head stripes, I’m going with a Song Sparrow.
How fitting that it would send us off with his own song. Well, that’s all folks and for those keeping tabs, this month is in the books. Thanks for sticking with us for this series (especially if you are not a bird fan). I’ll try to mix it up a little bit for next month, but truth be told there are a number of other bird outings just waiting to get their time to shine.