May Birds, part 2 (plus some non-birding content)

The first-of-years are slowing down, but that doesn’t mean migration is. For the most part, I’m having high warbler counts each day I go out. I had 18 species this morning when I spent a few hours at the Pheasant Branch Creek Corridor. It’s been pretty happenin’. Taking a week off to go birding was well worth it.

May 7th- a low-key day
148: Purple Finch
149: Least Flycatcher

May 8th- another low-key day, spent inside to avoid the rain
150: Pine Warbler- pretty sure it was the first one I’ve seen at a feeder

May 9th- a warbler-filled day at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy
151: Tufted titmouse- I’d heard a few earlier in the year, but I don’t count them on my year list until I see them. All titmouse species are cute.
152: Gray-cheeked Thrush
153: Bay-breasted Warbler
154: Golden-winged Warbler- one of many species I found in the Silver Maple forest

Bay-breasted Warbler, photo taken today at Pheasant Branch

May 10th- the first day of a camping trip at Wyalusing State Park
155: Wood Thrush- on the Old Wagon Road Trail
156: Scarlet Tanager- near our site
157: Common Nighthawk- at Point Lookout

Wyalusing is a State Park located at the mouth of the Wisconsin River at the Mississippi. It’s a land of spectacular views, deep ravines, and flowers growing right out of the cliff faces. It’s a good birding spot, but it’s also just a good place to experience the gestalt of Driftless Region nature.

Yellow Violet at Wyalusing

May 11th- a full day at Wyalusing, with a side trip into Iowa to see the Effigy Mounds National Monument
158: Cape May Warbler- at the boat launch
159: Blackburnian Warbler- also at the boat launch
160: Cerulean Warbler- on the Sentinel Ridge Trail, then later at our site where two of them were singing right next to us
161: Orchard Oriole

My camping buddies and I found Pheasant Back mushrooms like these ones all weekend.

May 12- the last day at Wyalusing
162: Yellow-throated Vireo
163: Red-headed Woodpecker- screaming its head off. What a darling.
164: Eurasian Collared-dove- while driving through rural Iowa County
165: Black-throated Blue Warbler- continuing the tradition of finding good warblers with my mom on Mother’s Day
166: Chestnut-sided Warbler

May 13th- I was back to work, but I got a few minutes of birding in at Stricker’s Pond
167: Prothonotary Warbler- a pre-work treat

May 15th- an incredibly birdy day at Pheasant Branch
168: Canada Warbler
169: Wilson’s Warbler
170: Eastern Kingbird- seen while I was out for a run
171: Indigo Bunting- two birds singing from atop a tree just before sunset over the marsh

So those are my Wisconsin FOY birds, but I also have an Iowa list now! It only has 29 species, but that checklist is a record of me having the time of my life. Effigy Mounds National Monument is absolutely gorgeous, both for its ancient sites as well as being located on bluffs and at the confluence of the Mississippi and Yellow Rivers. It’s a place I’d like to spend a whole weekend sometime, not just a few hours.

A few of the conical mounds overlooking the Mississippi
American Redstart in Iowa

2019 Iowa List (also my only recorded entry of birds in Iowa so far):
1: Canada Goose
2: Wood Duck
3: Mourning Dove
4: Great Blue Heron
5: Turkey Vulture
6: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
7: Red-headed Woodpecker
8: Blue Jay
9: American Crow
10: Tree Swallow
11: White-breasted Nuthatch
12: House Wren
13: American Robin
14: American Goldfinch
15: Song Sparrow
16: Baltimore Oriole
17: Red-winged Blackbird
18: Brown-headed Cowbird
19: Common Grackle
20: Northern Waterthrush
21: Prothonotary Warbler
22: Common Yellowthroat
23: American Redstart
24: Yellow Warbler
25: Palm Warbler
26: Yellow-rumped Warbler
27: Wilson’s Warbler
28: Scarlet Tanager
29: Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The best spot for birding at the monument was the boardwalk that winds half a mile into the Yellow River floodplain. That’s where I found most of the warblers and the sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

My First Herping Video

So… I’m really getting into making videos, and not just of birds. I have one video so far of an amphibian. I haven’t been actively herping much this year. So far I’ve found a few frogs, a few turtles, and a few snakes. Most of these sightings were while birding or fishing, and I don’t have much to write about in regards to spring herping.

So I decided to put this video on here by itself. This is one of the Leopard Frogs I encountered in April singing in ponds. It allowed for a close view and I’m not selfish enough to keep it to myself. It’s a good capture of the physical appearance and mating call of this common frog.

May Birds, part 1

Alright, here’s the next edition of my 2019 Wisconsin bird list. Let’s take a look.

May 1st- a day at Lake Farm County Park with my dad
107: Yellow Warbler
108: Swamp Sparrow
109: Nashville Warbler
110: Merlin- life bird #310
111: Northern Waterthrush
112: Cliff Swallow
113: Orange-crowed Warbler- cute fella hanging out by the railroad tracks
114: Chimney Swift
115: Field Sparrow
116: Forster’s Tern- at the North Fork Trail in Middleton

The Merlin was fun to see. The light conditions were pretty awful that day and I really didn’t think it would be a lifer or even a bird of prey until I got binoculars on it. It wasn’t showing its head all that much, and it took a me while to see the trademark mustache stripe.

May 3rd- one FOY before work
117: Blue-headed Vireo- I’m seeing them more than usual this year and it is amazing.

May 4th- a day spent birding in Walworth and Jefferson Counties with a birder I’d recently met. We went to a segment of the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest, a small park in Whitewater I used to bird when I went to school there, and Prince’s Point State Wildlife Area. Prince’s Point had the coolest birding, including an absolute boatload and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers and enough Yellow-headed Blackbirds to make up for the fact that we don’t have many of them in western Dane County.
118: Gray Catbird
119: Baltimore Oriole
120: Yellow-headed Blackbird
121: Lesser Yellowlegs

Yellow-rumped Warbler in the riverbottom forest at Prince’s Point
Eastern Towhee (with camera shutter sounds at the end)

May 5th- some birding at Stricker’s Pond and around the yard
122: Common Yellowthroat
123: Warbling Vireo
124: Black-throated Green Warbler- on the red maple just outside the kitchen window. I’d missed this species last year, so it was nice to see one.
125: Great Crested Flycatcher- my favorite backyard bird
126: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

May 6th- the big one so far, with time spent at home (FOY’s 127-129), Sticker’s Pond (Solitary Sandpiper), Ho-Nee-Um Pond (131-140), Nine Springs (141-145), and Esser Pond (American Avocet and Least Sandpiper)
127: Black-and-white Warbler
128: Northern Parula
129: Rose-breasted Grosbeak
130: Solitary Sandpiper
131: Ovenbird- two of them, and a good but brief view
132: Magnolia Warbler
133: Blackpoll Warbler
134: Tennessee Warbler
135: Swainson’s Thrush
136: Mourning Warbler- life bird #311, totally amazing
137: American Redstart
138: Blue-winged Warbler
139: Lincoln’s Sparrow
140: Veery
141: Savannah Sparrow
142: Bank Swallow
143: White-crowned Sparrow
144: Virginia Rail- life bird #312, just a brief glimpse of this elusive marsh-dweller
145: Black-crowned Night Heron- my first for the state
146: American Avocet- an uncommon visitor to these parts
147: Least Sandpiper

American Avocets- only my second sighting in Wisconsin
I wouldn’t have kept this picture of the Mourning Warbler if it wasn’t a lifer. At the very least it’s identifiable.
bonus vid of a Green Heron

April Birds, part 2

Where I left off, I had last seen 10 first-of-year birds on April 13th. It took me until the 20th to see my next FOY’s. And boy, that was an interesting day.

April 20th- The Day of the Laughing Gull
90: Brown Thrasher
91: Blue-winged Teal- seen in the new neighborhood retention pond
92: Osprey- in their favorite nesting spot in Monona
93: Laughing Gull- So obviously this was a fun one…

Laughing gulls are fairly rare in Wisconsin. They prefer the Gulf and East Coasts. This one was spotted by a few birders earlier in the day, who alerted me about it but were not sure of its identity after reviewing their field guides. They charged me with refinding it. I did almost as soon as I got to Nine Springs, but I only got a passing glimpse at it through the scope before I was distracted by two other birders and it flew away during our conversation.

It had been perfectly still before! How dare it! Fortunately another birder found it later and pointed it out to me. It had flown back to its original spot. The field marks looked right for a Laughing Gull, but I studied it for quite a while to be sure. Franklin’s Gulls aren’t common here, but they’re much more likely and the two birds look similar. That’s why the original spotters had assumed it was a Franklin’s at first. However, this bird had black wingtips, and a heavy, slightly-drooped bill. It was for sure a Laughing Gull! It was my state first and I hung around for quite a while to watch it. Other birders came too. Word gets out quickly. The best moment? When it flew right over us and I didn’t even need my binoculars to make it out in good detail.

Old school digiscoping

April 21st- Easter
94: Greater Yellowlegs- see video below!
95: Broad-winged Hawk- two of them over Stricker’s Pond
96: Northern Rough-winged Swallow- 
I feel like I’m seeing more of them than usual this year, though I could just be hanging out at ponds and lakes more.
97: Sharp-shinned Hawk- a low-flying one at Stricker’s Pond
98: Chipping Sparrow- at my aunt’s house during our Easter celebration

I’d suggest watching this in HD. The quality is not very good without it.

April 22- spending the morning at Stricker’s Pond before work
99: Barn Swallow
100: Palm Warbler-
my second warbler species of the year

April 24- birding with my dad
101: Spotted Sandpiper
102: Clay-colored Sparrow
103: Pectoral Sandpiper- a flock of 6 along the North Fork Trail in Middleton
104: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

April 25
105: House Wren

April 30
106: Green Heron

It was a fun month. Out of this second half, the birding trip on the 24th with my dad really stands out. Pectoral Sandpipers and Clay-colored Sparrows are so beautiful. The two hawk species I saw on Easter were amazing. I especially liked the Sharp-shinned Hawk because you almost never see them as clearly as I did. A flash of brown disappearing into the trees? Not this time. It flew over me in the open, and at a low height too. The field marks separating it from a Cooper’s Hawk stood out- it had a small head tucked close to its body and a very squared tip to the tail. Beautiful.

I also took some time to try making videos of birds. They can capture bird behavior in a way photos cannot. My second video is of a pair of Sandhill Cranes tending to their egg. Watching this video, I feel sad. Just a few days after I took it, we got heavy rain and the nest is now underwater. I almost don’t want to post this because it breaks my heart. They put in so much effort for nothing. I hope they build another nest on higher ground.

I get that this is the way of nature and nests sometimes fail, but it’s harder to witness it than to simply know it as fact. The cranes were just doing what they instinctively do, too- they wanted a nest site surrounded by water to help protect their egg from predators. Oh well. Better luck next time, dudes.

Wow… that’s not the highest note to end on. Hmmm… I guess I’m finding it comforting to know that even though this nest failed, Wisconsin has a healthy crane population and one lost egg won’t crash it. I bet I’ll see some colts (baby cranes) soon. I always do. And when that happens, I’ll make sure to get some video or photgraphic evidence of them.

Not Your Typical Backyard Birds

It started with a large brown bird landing in an oak outside the back door. It took me no time at all to process what it was, but I’d never seen one land in the yard before. They always fly high overhead. I watched it move from that tree to one ever closer. Did it even know I was there?

I went to fetch my camera. When I returned, the bird was still there on its unexpected perch. I snapped a few pics then watched as it flew down to land on the bluebird house. I knew the pictures would look awful through the window, but I didn’t care. This was a fun moment and I wanted to record it.

Soon, a second member of the species flew in. It was more passive than the first one, and remained motionless in an obscured tree. A thought began to form in my head: was this a breeding pair? Was the active one searching for a nesting site while the other watched?

I watched too.

The first bird flew down to the forest floor and began to move around. It was definitely looking for something.

After a while, it found the object of its desire: carrion. To each their own.

I watched as the Turkey Vulture began ripping apart the remains of a small mammal. The other vulture, realizing this meal was too small to share, left. I’d never seen vultures come down for carrion before. I’d only ever seen them flying around in lazy circles. Despite how gross it was by human standards, I didn’t want to turn my attention somewhere else.

I always had a mental image of a Turkey Vulture (or a whole flock) landing precisely next to the carrion and immediately chowing down. Nope. Their sense of smell is strong and these ones zoomed in on the location in the backyard from a distance I couldn’t smell a hamburger. From there, they had to look. I assume this wouldn’t be the case with a large animal (a deer, for example) in an open area, but for a small animal hidden beneath the canopy, the vulture had to perform a search.

Observing behavior is a fun part of birding, and to witness vultures coming in for a meal was by far the birding highlight of my day.

April Birds, part 1

Wow, so I know April’s migration is much more intense than that of March, but holy cow! We’re not even halfway through and I already have almost as many FOY birds as I did last month. This is definitely a post that I cannot put off any longer. Without any further ado, here are my first-of-years from the first thirteen days of April:

April 3rdmy first April day at Stricker’s Pond- sunny, warm, and beautiful.
67: Eastern Phoebe
68: Bonaparte’s Gulla good amount of them this whole week. The water at the pond is very high this spring and I’ve twice seen them perched on the Purple Martin houses because the shoreline rocks are underwater.
69: Common Loon
70: Brown Creeperfinally saw one! I was worried they would all migrate north before I had a chance.
71: Great Egretthree of these elegant white herons foraged the shallow edges of the pond.

Eastern Phoebe silhouetted against the water

April 6tha day spent by the Wisconsin River with a friend.
72: Northern Harrier
73: American White Pelicanpointed out by said friend (thanks again!)
74: Tree Swallowso far my only one of the year.

April 10thgot some birding in at the pond before the snow came.
75: Pied-billed Grebe
76: Pine Siskinsame situation as the Brown Creeper I saw on the 3rd.
77: Yellow-rumped WarblerIt jumped into my binoculars view while I was watching the siskin.
78: Horned Grebe
79: Purple Martinthe first individual to arrive at the martin houses.

Pied-billed Grebe

April 13thTWO trips to Stricker’s Pond
80: Winter Wrengot a good look at it! I wasn’t timing, but I think I watched it for two or three minutes. That’s not bad for a bird whose preferred habitat is dense brush and woodpiles. They are so lovely. It was a rich brown with light speckling. They move so fast over any sort of obstacle. If they’re just hopping from one log to another, they move with such speed it looks like they’re teleporting. These are easily one of my favorite April birds. Unfortunately this long sighting was during my second, and camera-less, trip to the pond.
81: Golden-crowned Kinglet
83: Ruby-crowned Kinglet
84: Eastern Towhee
85: Hermit Thrush
86: Cooper’s Hawk
it’s about time!
87: Double-crested Cormorant
88: Brown-headed Cowbird
89: White-throated Sparrow

Wood Duck

Today was the absolute high point of these past few weeks. Not only did I see the cute little Winter Wren, but it was a great day for Red-breasted Mergansers and Bonaparte’s Gulls, with high counts of 27 and 18, respectively. I would like to go on record and say Bonaparte’s Gulls are even cuter than Winter Wrens. As one of the smaller species, they aren’t particularly gullish, at least by our stereotypes. I’ve never seen them in a parking lot or any heavily-developed area and they are not aggressive and in-your-face. They’re more dainty, like a tern rather than a gull. Oh, and they beep. Or quack? It’s kind of a combination of the two. Think of a softer, sweeter Mallard call.

And yes, I finally saw two winter birds that I was starting to get worried about- the Brown Creeper and Pine Siskin. I just have to hope my 2019 Common Redpolls will show up in the fall because it’s too late for them now.

The Purple Martins are slowly coming back to Stricker’s Pond. I saw five on my highest count today, but I am expecting a colony of 12 or more in May.

This has been a very exciting month so far, and I predict this is going to be a good year for birds.

March Birds

I decided to make one single post about the birds that arrived in March. It’s a month that sees a lot of change, and it’s worth celebrating as a whole. Winter gave way to spring, both on the calendar and in our weather. A cumulative foot (or more?) of snow gave way to meltwater and streams that were full to the brim. As that happened, the ground became open and soft. Not much was frozen by the end of the month.

With the changing temperatures came the first spring migrants. Things were slow at first, with only a small trickle of waterfowl making their way through on the few spots of open water on the metro area’s many lakes. In the first week I only encountered five FOY species:

42: Tundra Swan
43: Cedar Waxwing
44: Redhead
45: Canvasback
46: Trumpeter Swan

Of these, only the Cedar Waxwings didn’t fit the waterfowl pattern. I ran into a flock of them outside a supermarket in Fitchburg. They’re highly nomadic year-round residents that love berries, and you can find them anywhere crabapples or similar shrubs are planted, often in large winter flocks.

From March 12th onward, the birds came into town with increasing frequency. I saw a few FOY birds on each of my days off.

47: Red-winged Blackbird
48: Sandhill Crane
49: Killdeer
50: Common Grackle
51: Eastern Bluebird
52: Song Sparrow
53: Great Blue Heron
54: Wood Duck
55: Green-winged Teal
56: Ring-necked Duck
57: Lesser Scaup
58: Greater White-fronted Goose (lifer #309… they’d been avoiding me)
59: Cackling Goose
60: Turkey Vulture
61: Belted Kingfisher
62: Eastern Meadowlark
63: Ruddy Duck
64: American Coot
65: Fox Sparrow
66: Northern Flicker

You might notice that a lot of the early migrants are noisy. Red-winged Blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and Common Grackles are the most vocal of the bunch. On the 12th I left work and felt a change in the air as soon as I got outside. It was warmer and somehow fresher. I took my time getting to the car. When I was almost there, I heard a sound that made the day complete: the first blackbird of the year had let out a call note from a nearby tree. Spring had made its entrance! For the next few weeks, the trees were full of singing robins and blackbirds. This chorus greeted me every time I woke up and left for work. I felt overwhelmed with joy. It’s easy to get used to silence during winter.

It’s hard to go anywhere brushy or reedy these days and not hear Song Sparrows.

The highlight of March for me was waterfowl migration. Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, and Green-winged Teal are always welcome visitors. By far my coolest sightings were two separate ones of Greater White-fronted Geese. How had I missed them my whole life before then? By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I suppose. That’s how I missed seeing Snow Geese this spring despite getting out to as many small lakes and ephemeral ponds as I could. I’ve pretty much missed the window in spring when you’re most likely to see them around here. They’re beautiful birds- my favorite goose in the state- but half of the fun of birding is knowing that nothing is a given. There will always the opportunity to see them in the fall or next spring.

Super handsome Green-winged Teal

March was a proper lead-in to spring. Now it’s April and all the snow is gone (for now) and even more changes are happening in the natural world.

No matter how insistent I was, these Mallards wouldn’t fetch that tennis ball.

Sheboygan

Wednesday morning I drove from Manitowoc to Sheboygan during a winter storm. My plan was to spend two nights in each city so I had to get a move on. Snow, and later a “wintry mix” of some sort, came blowing sideways across the road. The white powder drifted onto my lane. I drove on, sometimes in the center of the road, sometimes driving through drifts up to half a foot high. A stop for gas in the small town of Cleveland didn’t shelter me from the precipitation. I needed a wall, not a roof.

I did not immediate go birding once I got to Sheboygan. It was not too much of a weather-based decision; I had not skipped out on art museums and other cultural attractions on my trip. In fact, the weather didn’t discourage me from birding at all. After a brief visit to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, I was out by the lake. Nasty weather often does not discourage the birds, and that doesn’t discourage me.

In terms of numbers, I saw more species in Texas last winter. This short trip was epic in other sense. Never before had I birded in a winter storm on a lake where large waves were tossing ice at the shore. How exciting! Thank Vortex for waterproof binoculars. I walked, scanning around to find something that stood out against the usual gulls and ducks. I found nothing. Mostly I was mesmerized by the waves. That day will stand out for me not for the birds I saw, but because of the weather. Mallards in a storm are better than Mallards on a pleasant day.

The next day might as well have been a different place all together. The water was calm, the sky blue. I spent most of the day birding. My favorite spot in Sheboygan was North Point Park. I also took a short drive over to Kohler-Andrae State Park, arguable one of the best parks in the state. In a past summer, I had sat for hours watching the waves roll in over the sand and touch my toes. This time, however, I saw nothing but snow and ice before they suddenly gave way to waves that lapped against the frozen water. I walked down the beach a short ways before finding a bench partway up a dune. I decided to sit and bird. Even if I didn’t see anything, I’d at least get to watch the lake. Fortunately I did get a good view, almost straight on, of a small flock of Greater Scaup with a single Common Goldeneye mixed in.

Four Greater Scaup in profile- note the overall round shape of the head, with the highest point being in front. Lesser Scaup have more angular heads with the highest point being in back.

Once I got back in town, I saw more species. There were plenty of waterfowl, plus Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed Gulls. I got my first Great Black-backed Gull pics. That was a highlight of the day.

I had trouble choosing just one pic of it.
Here it is standing.
When you’re aggressive but also pretty

My biggest waterfowl surprise of the day was five American Wigeons that showed up for a few minutes in a window between two islands of ice. They were bird #41 of the year.

The four ducks behind the Mallard hen are American Wigeons.

What a fun trip! With the possible exception of a few days in Iowa and Illinois, I plan to stay entirely within Wisconsin this year. This state has so much to offer to a nature enthusiast. I can’t wait to see more Wisconsin birds in the coming weeks and months.

Manitowoc

Greetings from the road! My winter birding trip is not taking me to places as distant as Texas this year, but it’s one I’ve wanted to do for a while. Right now, I am at a hotel on my third night at the Lake Michigan coast in eastern Wisconsin. Why am I here? I haven’t been much of a winter birder in the past and I wanted to change that. I’ve been doing well on that count at home. Why not take it somewhere else? There’s a bit more diversity of gulls and ducks here in the winter and I decided to check it out.

I’m in Sheboygan now, a place I’m somewhat familiar with, but Manitowoc was entirely new for me. I spent two nights there. That’s not enough time to get to know the place, but it was a good introduction.

The best birding was at the small harbor near the YMCA, the first stop I made in the city. There were plenty of waterfowl; Canada Geese, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Common Mergansers were there in good numbers. It had been a few years since I’d seen Greater Scaup, as Lesser Scaup are the more common species away from the Great Lakes. Greaters are a little bigger than lessers, but head shape is the best way to tell them apart. While I was watching all the ducks, a few other birds showed up. One was my lifer Great Black-backed Gull. So, this is the largest gull species in the world, and it certainly seems to know that. The one I saw attacked the ducks a few times. Whether it was pirating from them (stealing food) or trying to prey on the ducks themselves, I do not know. They readily do both. I finally get all the jokes (?) about them being scary. Another bird that showed up was a Bald Eagle. It caught a fish (white sucker?) and flew almost right over me to eat it in a nearby tree. I always enjoy seeing birds of prey hunting.

I spent the rest of the day exploring the shore between Manitowoc and Two Rivers. A spot near County Road JJ proved to be quite good. I saw a lot of the same old ducks as the other spot, but with the addition of a few Red-breasted Mergansers. The highlight was when a male-female pair swam right in front of me. The next day I would see my only Bufflehead of the year from the same stretch of shoreline path.

Red-breasted Merganser- I never noticed until now how much longer its bill is compared to other mergansers.

Yesterday the harbor froze over and I didn’t see a whole lot there. Ice is a capricious beast. I assume all the scaup and goldeneye found another suitable place. What I’ve noticed in my time at the shore is that even when I stop at a park where the water’s frozen, I’ll see a few ducks flying across in search of open water. There always seems to be some nearby for them to land in.

It’s been fun to watch my year list grow:

36. Herring Gull (right as I entered town)
37. Greater Scaup
38. Great Black-backed Gull
39. Red-breasted Merganser
40. Bufflehead

Stay tuned for my write-up about my Sheboygan birding experience.

Gadwalls!

I wouldn’t know how to pick a favorite duck. A lot of them are dapper in their breeding plumage. I will say which one is the most underrated though: the Gadwall. Heck, I even have a hard time convincing some birders with years more experience that they are a handsome duck. I will present my case.

I will start off with the statement that some of the most beautiful birds have an understated sort of beauty. Case in point: one of my favorite hawks is the Gray Hawk.

So there’s a lot of gray, some white, and a tiny bit of yellow. Does that make it boring? Heck no! Look at that striped tail and that subtly-streaked breast. Notice the variations in the gray too: there’s several values going on there. Just the way it puts all these small little things together is great. It looks… sophisticated.

The Gadwall (bird #35 of the year) is the Gray Hawk of dabbling ducks.

So is this a drab bird? Nope.


Look at the sharp contrast between the light-colored body and the black rump, eyes, and bill. Good work on those, buddy.

Notice the body pattern, how it changes as you trace back from the head to the tail. It reminds me of the wormy lines and speckles on a lot of trout species.

You know what else you can’t forget? Those warm, tan feathers on the back.

The male breeding plumage is just very beautiful overall. Even when they’re dabbling (sticking their heads under the water), they look pretty neat.

What this species has in common with the Gray Hawk is they remind me of a gentleman in a nice suit. They’re not colorful. They get their beauty from having fieldmarks that don’t stand out on their own, but look amazing all together. Simply stunning.