Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More ducks, a swan, two geese, a poleful of pigeons and -- The Early Bird Is Even Earlier

A glorious afternoon on Sheepshead Bay.

I came in search of scaup and bufflehead, the winter ducks I'd seen out here last year on President's Day. I'd come in January and there was a small flock of lady buffleheads who turned up just before sunset, but mostly it was gulls, pigeons, mallards and swans. Sunday, there they were! Look, there's a scaup (lower left) and a bufflehead (upper right), there were flocks of both all over the bay. 

Buffleheads are so skittish, you could never get this from a kayak. Notice how they look black and white here? Their heads actually have a lovely iridescent sheen to them and I really wanted to try to catch that on this trip. I did, a little further down. 

Single scaup. Liked the yellow eye shining in the sun on this shot. 

Bufflehead cruisin'. My birder friend Prof. M said they remind her of little tugboats - I'd thought of that too, they have that same sort of sturdy, broad-chested build.

Very small, though, here are some mallards for comparison. 

Three scaup. The male scaup have a little bit of iridescence to their heads too - you can see a hint of purple here, but it's very subtle. 

The buffleheads, though, the shine is noticeable - these three pix caught it pretty well. 

Handsome little guy, isn't he?

A Facebook friend has suggested using half a paddle and employing the canoe stroke known as the Canadian J-stroke (paddle never leaves the water, the stroke is very quiet and there's none of the visual hubbub of the other blade flashing up in the air) to try to get a better view of these guys when out in the bay; I'm curious to try that but for now I'm reasonably happy with the photos I got. Might try taking one of my little tripods if I try this again - I was using the zoom lens at maximum zoom and a lot of pictures that looked quite good on the little camera screen turned to be ever so slightly out of focus. Still, for a spur of the moment thing, not too bad!

Scaup with reflections from the bridge. It was interesting, these guys weren't as "feed me feed me" as the geese, gulls, pigeons and mallards, but some of them were coming in and nibbling at the sliced bread people were throwing. Fortunately they didn't seem to think that the sliced bread was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they were definitely curious, and not worried about the people at all.

The bufflehead, though, although not AS skittish of the humans on the hoof here as they are of humans in kayaks in Jamaica Bay, were still keeping a bit more out towards the middle of the bay. They had no interest at all in mooching, all they wanted to eat was whatever little critters they were finding on their dives. Whoops, there one goes again! 

Swan, apparently enjoying the warm air on the webbed feet.

A couple of canada geese - common but I still think they're nice-looking birds. 

And a poleful of pigeons! I just liked the way they looked with their sentinel seagull baygull.
 Most unexpected bird of the weekend, though? 
Remember when I painted this last year after spotting the first oystercatcher of Spring on a very mucky day in the middle of March and wondering if he was regretting leaving Florida? Well, we saw an oystercatcher in Jones Beach on Saturday. Around here, oystercatchers are a MUCH better sign of spring than robins, which I've seen in Prospect Park in December, and this is REALLY early for one of them to be back. With the weather we had last week, the little guy was probably congratulating himself on his cleverness in getting back so early, getting a head-start in staking out turf, all that - well, this week he's going to be sorry as winter returns. Hopefully this is winter's last laugh, but it definitely isn't quite over.

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