Wood Duck

Wood Duck, photo by Dan Lockard

The All About Birds listing for Aix sponsa (wood duck) says in part:

The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.

Wood Ducks thrive in bottomland forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaver ponds. They are also common along streams of all sizes, from creeks to rivers, and the sheer extent of these make them an important habitat. Wood Ducks seem to fare best when open water alternates with 50–75% vegetative cover that the ducks can hide and forage in.

Some wood duck facts:

  • Natural cavities for nesting are scarce, and the Wood Duck readily uses nest boxes provided for it. If nest boxes are placed too close together, many females lay eggs in the nests of other females. (click for info about building a nest box)
  • The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to 2 km (1.2 mi) away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 89 m (290 ft) without injury.
  • Wood Ducks pair up in January, and most birds arriving at the breeding grounds in the spring are already paired. The Wood Duck is the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in one year.

View Sherri & Dan’s photo background big and see more in their Animals slideshow.

Many (many) more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.

Lady ducks take notice

Lady ducks take notice, photo by R.J.E.

It’s been too long since I’ve added to the Michigan in Pictures Duckie Gallery. The All about Birds entry for Mallard Anas platyrhynchos explains:

Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear.

Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.

Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.

Read on for more including photos and some fun facts:

  • The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck).
  • Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. So-called “extra-pair copulations” are common among birds and in many species are consensual, but male Mallards often force these copulations, with several males chasing a single female and then mating with her.
  • Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.
  • The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.
  • Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks. They are secretive during this vulnerable time, and their body feathers molt into a concealing “eclipse” plumage that can make them hard to identify.
  • The oldest known Mallard lived to be at least 27 years 7 months old.

Check this photo out bigger and in R.J.E.’s slideshow.

Swarm!

Swarm!, photo by OtisDude.

OtisDude writes:

I was shooting some duck pictures today when all the sudden something startled all the ducks. Calm to chaos in less than a second. I managed to snap off 4-5 pics before I got a little panicked and got out of the way.

We’ve all heard of the many Inuit names for snow. In case anyone was wondering, ducks are pretty much the same. There’s quite a collection of names for a group of ducks including a paddling of ducks or a raft of ducks (when floating along), a plump or team of ducks (in flight overhead), a brace of ducks (post hunting I believe) or a dopping of ducks (when diving). More ducks on Michigan in Pictures.

None of these seemed quite right but fortunately there’s also a flush of ducks, which I’m going to assume covers exactly this scenario.

Huron

Huron, originally uploaded by John Baird.

Speaking of snow (of which Michigan has almost none right now), here’s a stunning photo by John Baird of snowier days on the Huron River.Click the photo, click “ALL SIZES” and look at the largest to get the full effect.

When he’s not taking pictures, John is a furniture designer.

More ducks in the Michigan in Pictures Duckie Project.

Hooded Merganser Party

March 18, 2010

Hooded Merganser Party

Hooded Merganser Party, photo by Adore707.

While these birds are partying*, you probably won’t have to shout at them to keep it down. The All About Birds entry for Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) says that they are silent except in courtship when male gives a deep rolling frog-like sound. Their wings do produce a loud whistling in flight which you can hear under “Sounds” at the link above.

This small fish-eating duck frequents wooded ponds and nests in holes in trees. More fun facts:

The Hooded Merganser is the second-smallest of the six living species of mergansers (only the Smew of Eurasia is smaller) and is the only one restricted to North America.

Although up to 44 Hooded Merganser eggs have been found in one nest, one female probably does not lay more than about 13. Larger clutches result when more than one female lays eggs in a nest.

The Hooded Merganser finds its prey underwater by sight. The merganser can actually change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. In addition, the nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is very transparent and probably acts to protect the eye during swimming, just like a pair of goggles.

For more, including photos, see the UM Animal Diversity Web entry for Lophodytes cucullatus (hooded merganser) and Wikipedia’s Hooded Merganser page. If you haven’t had your fill of ducks, there’s always the ever-growing Michigan in Pictures Duckie Gallery.

See this bigger in Eli’s Birds slideshow (view the set).

* Three boys and one girl? I’ve been to parties like that…

Hello 2010!

January 1, 2010

molly in snow 006

molly in snow 006, photo by northern_latitudes.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’re waking up relatively unharmed and eager to dive into 2010.

In no particular order, I’m hoping for snow, sun, a lot of trips to Michigan’s parks, more time on my bike, a championship by the Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings or (hold your laughter please) Lions, more pictures of ducks, continuing rebirth in Detroit and other Michigan cities and many, many more amazing pictures of the Great Lakes State.

How about you?

Check this out bigger in Tim’s Harbor Springs slideshow.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

September 26, 2008

Seney, MI

Seney, MI, photo by lilrhgerl.

lilrhgerl took this Holga photo – do yourself a favor and check out her Holga slideshow. She writes that Seney is the most amazing place, and anyone who has spent time there would probably agree.

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 100,000 acres in the central Upper Peninsula. Seney was established in 1935 for the protection and production of migratory birds and other wildlife. It supports a variety of wildlife including a profusion of birds: bald eagles, common loons, trumpeter swans, Canada geese, hooded mergansers, mallards, black ducks, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and sandhill cranes. Animals include black bear, white-tailed deer, coyote, river otter and beaver. There’s also black flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes during warmer months.

The wetlands, which are also known as the Great Manistique Swamp provide a great haven for all these animals and birds have their roots when:

…Over a century ago, lumbering operations altered the landscape of the Upper Peninsula’s great forests. The ring of the lumberman’s axe echoed through the forests as local mills depleted the region’s valuable supply of red and white pine. After the pine forests were cut, mill owners turned their axes and saws to the Refuge’s northern hardwood and swamp conifer communities.Following the lumbering operations, fires were often set to clear away the debris. These fires burned deep into the rich organic soil, damaging its quality and killing the seeds that would have produced a new forest. On many areas of the Refuge, the scars from these lumbering operations remain visible to this day.

After the fires, a land development company dug many miles of drainage ditches throughout Seney. This drained acreage was then sold using extravagant promises of agricultural productivity. But the new owners quickly learned that these promises were unfounded. One by one, the farms were abandoned, and the exploited lands reverted to state ownership.

In 1934, the Michigan Conservation Department recommended to the Federal Government that the Seney area be developed for wildlife. This proposal was accepted and Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935.

Check out Seney National Wildlife Refuge on the Absolute Michigan map and click for the Seney slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool!

Why Stop To Think Of Weather

Why Stop To Think Of Weather, photo by jbnuthatch.

jbnuthatch offers an excerpt from I’m In The Mood For Love that I everyone in Michigan probably needs to hum one day or another.

Why stop to think of whether
This little dream might fade
We’ve put our hearts together
Now we are one, I’m not afraid

If there’s a cloud above
If it should rain, we’ll let it
But, for tonight, forget it
I’m in the mood for love

I think it’s also pretty obvious that I have some sort of thing for ducks

to water

April 19, 2008

Untitled, photo by Brooke Pennington.

I know that I’m supposed to feature different photographers, and that it hasn’t been that long since the last time Brooke made an appearance.

I plead helplessness in the face of photographic awesomeness … and ducks.

Have a lovely weekend folks.

2007_0703July40155

2007_0703July40155, photo by JJ Murletti.

I don’t know the name of this lake but was struck by just how peaceful it looks.

There’s a campground in the Pigeon River State Forest and lots and lots of trails. The DNR says that the Pigeon River Pine area has over 100 acres of white pine (most about 100 years old) and that the Dog Lake area is considered to be one of the most remote and wild areas in the region. Nesting loons, bald eagles, and osprey are a few of the many animals using the lakes.

The International Mountain Biking Association is quite taken with:

An awesome ribbon of trail looping through the heart of elk country, the High Country Pathway (HCP) embodies the classic definition of an IMBA Epic Ride. The first IMBA Epic Ride in Michigan will take you far into the backcountry with beautiful lowlands and panoramas in the highlands.

Be sure to outfit for self-support, as you may not see another human on this 80-mile soul searcher. The trail passes through a variety of woodlands and wetlands containing massive groves of silver beech, tamarack swamp and leather leaf bogs. The area is home to beaver, black bear, bobcat, pine martin, snowshoe hare, wood ducks, bald eagles, deer, wild turkey and the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River.

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