Howdy everyone! Although I did get another Halloween project out on the mothership (Our updated UV Light Bombs link here), it has been a bit of time since we’ve had a real wildlife post. To remedy that, today I wanted to bring you a new lifer bird in thanks for having to sit through that rather lengthy project post(s). Some house cleaning before I get to that.
First off, I left my readers hanging on the outcome of the Bix7 race. Some details were provided in response to a few of the comments that asked how it went. As a whole it went quite well! The weather probably lands in the top 5 best conditions I’ve had for that event. End of July races in the Midwest can be brutal with the heat and humidity sucking out every bit of moisture in your body. I’ll never forget the year the course was littered with runners getting IVs in the street gutters. Somewhat cool at the start and smattering of clouds that kept a lot of the humidity in check. They did add a new layer of asphalt to the middle of the race course a year or two ago and for some reason that portion really cooks ya’. Beyond that – no performance excuses can be levied on the race conditions. My primary focus was on the tender ankle. Right before the gun went off I gave it a very stern lecture on how there would be NO whining, NO bitching and certainly NO pansy footing tolerated – there was Whitey’s popsicles at stake and nothing was going to jeopardize getting that delicious post race treat – Linda calls me a medal whore.. in reality I am more of a popsicle whore ha. To keep with tradition, I’ll put a full account of the race in a future post (on the mothership), but as a summary – ankle did just fine. Had some minor swelling afterwards, which was less than expected so complete success. Note – the next day I was moving a ridiculously heavy washer up a truck ramp and the damn thing fell on top of me pinning my injured ankle under it. That pissed me off, but I couldn’t yell at the ankle for that – that was all me and the guy I was helping getting distracted by a Squirrel. Although extremely frustrating at the time, ended up being okay and no additional damage occurred – at least not the serious kind. Ankle continues to improve and now with the ultra race coming up here in October, I’ve been hitting the trails hard and it is holding (always mind over body!).
In honor of being frustrated with the washer incident, decided this, or should I say these, would be a good feature for today.
Hit the jump to read about why these Fulvous Ducks are equated to rampaging appliances
In a previous post I featured one of my top 5 favorite Ducks – the Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck (link here). Those Ducks with their cute little orange bills, solid white eye rings and multi-toned feathering makes my heart melt every time I hear their “whistle calls” ring out over the waters. They do not visit us here in the Midwest, preferring to hang out on the southern tip of Texas and then down the coastline of Central America before exploding into South America. Fortunately, we have easy access to them during our January trips along the Texas Gulf Coast then along the Rio Grande Valley. This seemed to be record year for them as there were HUUUGE flocks in many of the birding hotspots we visited – one of which was Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Even if you are new to the Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck, you may still be putting two and two together and thinking these ducks do not have orange colored bills…or a white eye ring – you might give me a pass on the multi-toned feathering. “That sneaky bastard isn’t pulling one over on me – this ain’t no Black-Bellied!” You are absolutely correct and “still hayseed enough to say” it. Sorry, got Mellencamp on my mind for some unknown reason. Wanna take a guess how many times he sings “small town” in that song?
Sorry, I digress, back to these lovely “Not Black-Bellied” Ducks. As stated, Anahuac is home to massive flocks, but there was an ebird listing claiming someone had seen another variety – specifically the Fulvous Whistling-Duck. Now that was Intriguing and represented a new tick for Ron and I’s “Average Year” (link here).
Ron met us in Texas this year so we could kick our competition off right. It really isn’t fair if only one of us can make it to the bird mecca of southern Texas. The second or third day after his arrival we headed over to Anahuac. Didn’t take us very long to spot (or hear) the Black-Bellied species – they basically act as Walmart greeters when you arrive at the refuge. What we couldn’t spot were any specimens sporting the tell-tale blue-grey bills
We struck out that day – it still produced a massive number of additions to this year’s list, so we were not too upset. Ron eventually headed back and we continued on our Texas journey more into the interior of the state – that is when the weather took a nasty change. Like the previous year, unexpected freezing temps started to hit while we were in San Antonio (checking out the Alamo). No longer being winterized, we opted to scurry back down to the South Padre Island area. Not warm by any means, just not freezing.
A quick look at the recent ebird reports informed us the Fulvous was still being seen at Anahuac. Reviewed options with my event coordinator (read Linda) and accepted her terms and conditions for a revision – to this day, I still think having to streak through the campground was a touch too harsh for such a small detour – it was practically on the way!!!!…did I mention it was cold out too. This is what happens when you marry a devious woman that knows she has leverage over you when it comes to birds. I hope she is happy now that we will likely NOT be invited back to that campground.
On our return trip to Anahuac things, obviously, went much better. Gave a pleasant nod to the Black-Bellied refuge greeters and took the autoloop to a section behind their main body of water. Was actually looking for Sora when this uniquely colored pair caught my eye. Blue-grey bill, no white eye ring, full cinnamon head coloring and the closer – the tiger pattern on their backs. Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have one up on Ron.
Now you are probably still wondering what was so “frustrating” about that – seems like an easy find for a change. Well, the discovery part wasn’t the hair pulling part, getting images of them was where the hardship came in. Maybe you have noticed, maybe you haven’t, regardless, I try to use isolated images of the featured specimen(s) for their official post. It gives an uncluttered feel to the series and keeps me/you/horrified people at the campground focused on the star of the post. Admittedly, at the cost of referential sizing. For some reason, these two Fulvous’ purposely maintained mingle distance with any other Ducks that happened to make its way into the area – that or those waters were stocked with ducks that entertain themselves by photobombing their friends.
Just look at the shots above – first a Blue-Winged Teal decides to bomb the shot, then Mallards and even a !#$@%!#$@%!@%!#%$! COOT got into the game. Just when I thought there was a chance, a bunch of Shovelers come charging in. I swear those Fulvous Ducks were laughing the entire time!!! Got a few shots in the tin that were good enough to go with. They eventually flew off allowing me to bring you a good look at their feet and full cinnamon body. Looks at those legs and feet – fit for the clowning around they were doing while I was trying hard to bring you a full perspective of this new bird.
Added in this shot from behind to show you they do not have the white accents their counterparts, the Black-Bellies, have on their wings. Pretty much all dark with the exception of the white highlights on their tails.
This is a good way to distinguish them from the Black-Bellies if you only see them flying away and unable to get a good look at their bills. Here is the Black-Bellies’ profile to give you a better visual for future encounters in the field.
Let me quickly get to some additional interesting facts about this Whistler before I let you go. Like the Black-Bellied, they are year round residents of the Central America coastlines, however, Cornell does not show them going into South America – rather further north up the Texas coastline and then into the Florida/Keys region. Not sure what is going on in the southern tip of California, but there is a tiny breeding circle there – my guess, they have some kind of annual “How to Frustrate Photographers” conference there. They are commonly found in rice fields (which Anahuac has) – in fact, Cornell mentions it was the rice cultivation that led to their breeding in the States. Lastly, they commonly roost in trees similar to the Wood Duck.
Will leave it there folks and let you get back to your daily grind. As a confession, I am woefully behind on reading the blogs I follow, so accept my apologies on that front. The Halloween factory is in full production at the moment and just gobbling up my time – don’t worry, I’ll definitely get caught up on my reading soon.
Almost forgot – the answer to the Mellencamp quiz was 18 times + one small community and two big towns. From someone like me that lives in a small town, that is a lot of small towns in one short song about small towns written by a guy that will prob’ly [not] die in a small town.