Sunday, January 22, 2012


I had a banner morning on Lake Creek Trail today. I spent about three and a half hours birding all the way from the Braes Valley parking lot to Parmer Village and recorded 59 species of birds. But I was particularly excited about the ducks I found on Lake Creek today. Since I started birding in this neighborhood in 2004, I've found twelve species of wild ducks on the creek and this morning I found six. If you live in the neighborhood and haven't seen the wild ducks on the creek, you really owe it to yourself to find and observe them. They're a local source of natural beauty that we are so fortunate to have. Despite the overcast sky, poorly suited for photography, I couldn't resist taking photos of them. Here's a male Green-winged Teal. Look at the colors! The cinnamon head with a green stripe through the eye, the cream-colored tail. And the gray body and flight feathers have intricate patterns when you get a close enough look.

Green-winged Teal

There were several American Wigeon on the Creek, and the males are even more stunning than Green-winged Teal. I only got this slightly fuzzy flight shot of a male and a female this morning.

American Wigeons

Here's a pair of Gadwalls. From a distance, the males look just grayish brown with a black tail. But you can just see some of the details in this poor photo that show that show its subtle complex beauty.


I was most excited this morning to find a species of duck I've never seen on Lake Creek before. Near the last dam I found a pair of Buffleheads. These are small diving ducks and the males are bright black-and-white with iridescence in the head. The females have a white cheek patch. This was the first time I've seen Buffleheads on Lake Creek, bringing my neighborhood bird species list up to 209! I only got a couple distant photos.

Buffleheads - 1

Besides these species there were also Northern Shovelers and Lesser Scaup on the creek this morning. (And here is my complete species list from the morning.) It has really been a great winter for both numbers and diversity of wild ducks on our creek. Why is this? I think it's because the drought has made duck habitat scarce this winter, so the birds are finding and using small patches like our creek more often than in other years. I'm also hopeful that the construction of Parmer Village has slowed down enough to be less disruptive to the ducks.

Most of our wild ducks are only here in the winter. If you want to see these birds, keep in mind that they spook easily. These wild ducks are not like the domestic ducks that people feed at park ponds. If you get too close, entire flocks will fly away. And if this happens often enough they probably won't come back. So bring your binoculars, approach the water slowly and quietly, and stay as far back as you can to view these beautiful animals!

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