March 8, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Shovelers on Bell's Lane

No, not construction workers, but colorful long-billed ducks. We've had more than the usual number of Northern shovelers on ponds in the Bell's Lane area this winter, and today I got close enough to one of them to snap this picture. I learned from a field guide that their very large bills are used for less for digging through mud, as one would expect, than for skimming and straining food at the surface of the water. Today's highlights:

Northern Shoveler

Northern shoveler (male)

In the Rockfish Valley on Wednesday I caught a glimpse of a Tree swallow, which would be the first of the year for me. Yesterday I came close to running over a Killdeer that was loitering in the middle of Route 29 near Lovingston. That species certainly does exhibit odd behavior!

The number of birds out back has declined noticeably this winter. There are fewer chickadees, titmice, Carolina wrens, woodpeckers, House finches, and almost no Goldfinches at all. I can't even remember the last time I saw a Purple finch or a Pine siskin; so much for this year being a "major northern irruption."