Thursday, December 11, 2008

Female Ring-necked Duck—Mystery Solved!

Ding Ding Ding- We have a winner! I am confident to say this mystery duck that I saw at Four Ponds Conservation Area in Pocasset, MA is a female ring-necked duck.

Source: Lloyd Spitalnik's Wildlife Galleries

Leah at BlueBirdFriendliness gave me a good tip about Scoters and Eiders, and I was fairly confident that it was a Female Common Scoter in 2nd year breeding plumage, but the ring on the bill was lacking in the pictures I found.

As my friend Dave always tells me, if there is a key characteristic missing then it probably isn't a match and keep looking. I should have known better but didn't think I could get any closer.

Thanks to Andy at for helping me solve this mystery! I better study up and spend more time outdoors so I can get a little sharper.

Common Scoter 2nd Year Female Breeding Plummage: Possible Mystery Duck ID

Thanks to Leah at Bluebird of Friendliness for the tip on the Mystery Duck ID (shown above). I looked at some pictures of Ruddy Ducks, Eiders and Scoters. I found a great picture of a female Common Scoter in 2nd year breeding plummage that looks like a close match.

Source: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White-throated Sparrow and Other Backyard Visitors

I was out in the yard again on Saturday practicing with my tripod. It's very tricky how I need take the camera off the mount to flip it around so I can either aim up or aim down. It's still pretty cool though and I'm excited about the stable pictures that I'm able to get now.
Since our back lawn has tree-lined borders on either side, that is naturally where the birds like to hang out. Unfortunately it looks like I like to spy on my neighbors with binoculars and tripod-mounted camera!

Tufted Titmouse:

White-throated Sparrow:

Dark-eyed Junco:

Carolina Wren:
Ok- so the Carolina Wren and White-throated Sparrow aren't the greatest, but those birds are fast! They're so tricky to photograph. Practice makes perfect :) Can't wait to get out there again.

Four Ponds Ducks

Armed with my new Dynex tripod I made a special trip to Four Ponds over Thanksgiving to try and get some decent Bufflehead pictures once and for all.
My mom and Steve joined me. We left poor Marsy (our black lab) at home since we didn't want her to scare the birds away. Even with all of these things in my favor--tripod, no dog, known Buffleheads on a small pond-- I still cannot get a decent picture.
We went directly to the pond that borders County Rd. since we saw the ducks there on our way to the Barlow's Landing Rd. parking lot. I quietly moved ahead and crouched down to set up my tripod. I went with the 60" lightweight one since I thought it would be best for carrying while birding. I figured I could easily kneel down and still aim the camera up whatever bird I was trying to get. Well, that's easier said than done when you're trying to shoot ducks in a pond surrounded by bushes. That, and the fact that they're easily spooked. Wonder why....

I was able to find some holes in the branches of the bushes and got at least a few shots.

Male Bufflehead:

Very distant shot of a Hooded Merganser pair:

It was very difficult for me to get the camera to focus on the ducks, and when I did they were still blurry since they were on the other side of the pond. It also must have been entertaining watching me fumble around trying to adjust the camera angle on that thing.

Steve wasn't paying attention anyway- he was busying watching the house sparrows scramble away because of this guy.

Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk:

The hawk had been in a tree directly above where I was taking pictures, and then flew to the other side of the pond, which is when I got the picture above. The most noticeable characteristics about this hawk were its small size, it's buffy-colored breast, the white spots on its back, and the barred tail.

Before leaving this pond my mom pointed out this very pretty bird's nest among some bittersweet:

I'm not so bad when I'm actually trying to focus on the branches!

Here's the final picture from the day. It's a mystery duck to me. I took Larry's suggestion and tried posting it to a photo-sharing sight, but didn't get very far. I went to Bird Forum, and once I remembered what my username and password were I tried posting the photo, but the size restrictions were just too much and I gave up since it was taking so long.

Can anyone suggest another, more user-friendly bird photo-sharing site? I do want to get into the habit of running my mystery photos by skilled birders, but in the meantime I want to share this photo anyway.

The most distinctive thing about it is the all-white cheek/face and the thin band on the bill. However, the sun was very bright so there's a chance the whiteness of its face could be exaggerated.
I've referenced all of my guides, and usual bird websites to no avail. But, I did discover a helpful guide on the Ducks Unlimited site: Shortcuts to Duck ID.