Seeing Blue

Well, since yesterday was all about seeing “Red” at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, figured it was only appropriate to add a companion post next.  I have raved about the birding hotspot near Havana ever since Linda and I visited it for the first time many many years ago.  We went down there because they had a Northern Shoveler spotted there and at the time I thought it was an extremely rare bird.  Since then I have learned that it is a pretty common bird – at least here in the Midwest.  Since then Emiquon has continually produced new birds like the Red-Breasted Merganser (see previous post, the Black-Necked Stilt, the Sora and a ton of shorebirds to name a few.  This place is truly a gem for birders.

Today I bring you another fairly common inhabitant of the flooded lowlands.
Blue-Winged Teal at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

That lovely creature is a male Blue-Winged Teal.  You might have been fooled by the title since it is hard to actually see the “blue” element they are named for.  They actually have what is referred to as a “slatey-blue” head.  I find this feature is difficult to really notice unless the light is just right.  What is easy to identify in the field is the thick white line between their bill and eye.

Blue-Winged Teal at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Hit the jump to see a little more of the Blue

There is another characteristic that is difficult to tell without a good reference.  These ducks are pretty small in stature.  They are only about 14 to 16 inches in length and weigh in at the 8 to 19 ounce range.  Compare that to the common Mallard which clocks in at the 19-25 inch mark and the scale tipping 35 to 50 ounce range.  You can really tell the different in the field when you see them side by side.

Blue-Winged Teal at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

In case you are wondering, the Blue comes in just slightly larger than the Green-Winged Teal.  I am sure they hold that over them whenever then come in contact.  I imagine the Greens walk around on the tips of their webbed feet whenever they see birders out with their cameras!

As is in most duck cases, the females are a lot harder to discern in the field.  They do not sport the large white band and bear the more drab brown markings similar to other female duck species.  I usually rely on the smaller white spot between their bill and the eye, but the fact is these females are rarely on their own.  Due to their abundance, you will usually spot them with their mates.

Blue-Winged Teal at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Note, apparently their mates can get a little irate if they catch you taking pictures of their spouse’s ass hehehehe.

Blue-Winged Teal at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

By the way, the shot above is one of my favorite composition shots.  I really like how the vertical symmetry plays out across the shot.  The two white bars on the tail centered by the white stripe on the male’s head work nicely with the vertical reeds that frame it and then complemented by the vertical head of the female down through to the reflection.  The horizontal water ripples help add a bit of perpendicular contrast.    I would have preferred not to have had the slanted read in the shot since it is kinda heading into the eye and throws the alignment off a bit, but other than that, as a whole I am pretty happy with it.

That is all I have for you today – legs are feeling a lot better and should be back to hitting the pavement soon – well, at least thinking about it.  Linda would probably beat me to death if I told her I wanted to run this week.


4 thoughts on “Seeing Blue”

  1. Nice! I didn’t realize the Green-Winged Teal is even smaller. I rarely see those, though.

    I thought they were called “Blue-winged” because they have bluish gray section on the leading edge of the top of their wings when they are flying. It had never occurred to me that they also have a slatey-blue coloring on their head.

    I also really like the composition of that last photograph!! I think the slanting reed improves the composition by providing a contrasting alignment that accentuates the other alignments. Plus it parallels the white stripe on the duck’s head, which completes the analogy between the duck and the reeds.



  2. Interesting – I always thought it was their head coloring – maybe we are both right. I didn’t think about the relationship of the slanted read to the white line – now I like the shot even more. Might have to mark this one for the upcoming UB competitions. Shhhh, don’t tell Linda, she might try and steal it and claim she took it (trust me, she has done that before!)


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