Duck Bonanza!

Sometimes you get lucky, and are just in the right place at the right time.  That was yesterday when I stumbled upon a huge concentration of ducks on one of the local lakes (Vadnais Reservoir).  I could hear a lot of commotion as I slowly came toward the lake shore out of the forest, and as I peeked around a big dead tree, here’s what I saw.

A mob of Ring-necked Ducks, mostly male, and a few scattered Mallards.  Within a couple of minutes, they had all moved off into the center of the lake, allowing very little time to take photos.

Yeah, that makes it tough to get interesting photos.  And this shot is WITH the telephoto.

So, I walked the edge of the lake looking for stragglers and found a few, but these Ring-necked Ducks were a skittish bunch, and took off long before they were in photo range.  Some of the take-offs made interesting photos, though; notice how much the water splashes as they take off.

More ducks flying away from me…

I think the photos above are of a male and female Ring-necked Duck, but seeing a pair was really the exception.  There were very few females anywhere, so perhaps they migrate at a different time.  Females are easily distinguished from the males as browner birds, with a white eye-ring and a grayer, rather than blue-gray bill.

The male is quite handsome with its black and white markings and golden eye, but really should be called the ring-billed duck instead of ring necked.  The faint cinnamon strip at the base of the neck is barely visible, even in good light.

These ducks are no doubt flocking up for the big migration south for the winter.  They breed from Alaska, across Canada, and in northern-most U.S. states, but leave in early fall for lakes in the southern U.S., Mexico, parts of Central America, and the Caribbean.

Ring-necked Ducks are diving ducks and catch aquatic insects, molluscs, and even small fish.  They will also feast on submerged vegetation, but yesterday, they were just floating along, enjoying the last warm fall weather, and thinking about the big trip ahead.

8 thoughts on “Duck Bonanza!

  1. Great pics, once again, Sue. And I agree. I’ve never understood why they weren’t called ring-billed ducks. Makes no sense to me. I’m getting in the mood to drive over to Merritt Island to ride through BlackPoint Trail Reserve. It’s an impounded salt marsh area, with fresh water on one side, and in the winter, you can spot flocks of everything there, from wintering ducks to roseate spoonbills and everything in between. The weather has just started to cool a bit this week, and while it won’t last long, it still seems to usher in rafts of ducks like these in your photos. And avocets. I have to say I love avocets more than just about any wading birds. Do you get them in your area?

    Thanks again for such a good post.

    • Ooh, I am jealous. You’re getting all the birds coming your way. No avocets come through here. I think they are mostly western (and Florida of course — where everyone goes for the winter). I saw lots of them on California beaches and marshes.

      • We do get some good birds here in the winter. (And actually, we have pretty decent birding all year, to be honest). The down side of wintering birds is they often are not in their best plumage, including the avocet. I’ve seen loons at Merritt Island fairly often, but the don’t look anything like they do in breeding plumage, a sight I still haven’t seen. There are lots of birds in other parts of the country I’d love to see, though, that never make it here. But I’m not going to complain. Where else can you climb out of your car on a dirt dike and stand within 20 feet of a sunning alligator while you watch spoonbills, reddish egrets, and glossy ibis feeding, then drive a bit farther on to a more open area to enjoy avocets, black-necked stilts and a passing manatee? Not to mention bald eagles overhead. We have a wonderfully diverse habitat, even in the hottest months, so I’m not going to complain. Much. But I still would love to see so many other birds that don’t get here.

  2. I really like your duck bonanza photos. We’ve had mostly smaller groups of ducks (and it’s an amazing coincidence that I happened to post a couple of photos of ring-necked ducks today too). It seems that we have mainly mallards. I feel inspired to search for some more ducks tomorrow.

    • The migratory wave is moving through. Ring-necked ducks might nest here, but I’m guessing that these birds (and yours) are the ones that came from Canada.

  3. Pingback: a blast from the past | Back Yard Biology

  4. Pingback: a blast from the past | Back Yard Biology

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