I have never encountered wildlife that are so inured to the threat of humans as I saw at Wood Lake Nature Center the other day. Their innate responses to flee when approached by humans towering over them on a boardwalk seems to have been completely suppressed — amazingly. The Barn Swallows featured on yesterday’s post were just one example. Ducks and Grebes were equally unimpressed by our presence.
Male Wood Ducks molt out of their brilliant green, black, and brown breeding plumage in mid summer (June-July), but retain their bright red bill and eye, as well as some of the iridescent back feathers and white belly feathers. During the time they exhibit this “eclipse” plumage, males molt a new set of wing feathers, and then finally begin the body molt back to breeding plumage in the fall just prior to migrating.
Once Pied-billed Grebes arrive in the spring from their wintering areas in southern South America, they tend to stay put and rarely fly. They are adept swimmers and divers, snaring crustaceans, aquatic insects, and small fish for their large broods of chicks. This marsh must have been great habitat for rearing Grebe chicks this year, because there were a lot of juveniles out on the water. Like loon chicks, young grebes ride around on their parents’ backs for the first couple of weeks of life — hanging on even during a dive.