Monday, April 15, 2013

Northern Shovelers


I finally got out today for a few hours. I explored waterways, ponds, and lakes in my “patch,” looking mostly for waterfowl.

In addition to the Northern Shovelers shown below, I also found some lovely Gadwalls, and Ring-necked Ducks were present in good numbers at two locations. Pied-billed Grebes are on the move, as are all three Merganser species. I also saw at least a half dozen Kestrels and the three pairs of Red-tailed Hawks that are resident in certain locations along my route, plus more.

Northern Shovelers are very interesting ducks. At first glance, one is reminded of the common Mallard duck; the males of both species have green heads and patterns of chestnut brown and white or grey. But the Shoveler is unmistakable, due to the long shovel-like bill that gives the bird its name.

The Shoveler feeds on or near the surface of the water, straining edibles through the dozens of projections (lamellae) on the edges of its bill, sometimes sweeping the bill from side to side. It also dabbles, tipping up to feed under the surface of the water.

Shovelers breed primarily in the northwestern regions of North America. Since they pass through Connecticut only during migration, and since they are not abundant, seeing one is rather a treat.

Here are some images I took a few days ago of a pair in a nearby town. They were in the same spot again today, apparently resting up before their final push to their northern breeding grounds.

These aren't great pictures, but they preserve my memory of a happy half-hour.

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