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.
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.