Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring grebes and gulls

We went to East Donegal Township Park today, since it was so warm and sunny.  The park doesn't have a very flashy name, but it's one of my favorite local spots.  It borders the river, there's a big wetland reclamation project, and it's in general a very birdy spot.

Still, I wasn't expecting to see so many ducks today.  Red-necked grebes have been hanging out on the river since January, but I thought they had all moved along.  But the first bird we saw was a red-necked grebe who seemed to be resting in an eddy out of the main current.

What really surprised me, though, was a horned grebe paddling around a small stream that flows into the river.  We watched it for 10-15 minutes.  I'm pretty sure it is missing a leg, although that didn't seem to slow it down or prevent it from grebe-ing.

This guy was unconcerned with our presence, so I took dozens of pictures.  Its red eye was extremely apparent in the late afternoon light.  This bird is transitioning into its adult plumage, but the golden-brown "horns" will grow longer and fill out, creating a really fun hair-do.  This is by far the best looks I've had at a horned grebe.

A lot of other ducks were around, too.  The wetlands area held ring-necked ducks, blue-winged teal, and a pair of wood ducks.  The cornfield ponds had northern shovelers, green-winged teal, american wigeon, and northern pintail.  I don't remember ever having seen that many different types of waterfowl spread out over the different parts of the park.  I am guessing the long-awaited relief from this killer winter is driving lots of ducks that would normally migrate at different times north all together.    

Another  migrant is on the move, too. The likelihood of seeing Bonaparte's gulls was the entire reason we went to the park in the first place. And, fortunately, the river was sprinkled with these small gulls.

A common feeding technique for gulls on the river seems to involve flying upstream, then floating back down on the current, looking for grub.  I estimated about 50 "Bonies" doing this, and found a couple that had nearly completed the transition to breeding plumage.  In breeding plumage, Bonies have a black head.  This is mostly a documentation shot as the gulls were very far away.  But you can get the gist!


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