It was that moment I remembered an article by Mike Atkinson. In part of his article he used the term "soft targets" -birds that are easy to photograph. I decided that for the remainder of that morning, I would only take photos of birds that were willing to pose for my camera.
My first subject was the Northern Mockingbird in the top photo. Mockingbirds are notorious for protecting their winter food supplies. Once they've found a bush full of berries, they will stick to it like glue. When I moved closer to the mockingbird for a better photo did it fly away? No, instead it gorged its mouth full of sumac and then hid in the center of the bush. It seems that the mockingbird was worried about me getting at his food source!
My next stop was at Lyman's Orchard in Middlefield. They have a man-made pond that is always loaded full of waterfowl but it was the pigeons that first caught my attention. I enjoyed watching some of the courtship behavior of the male pigeon.
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This male pigeon is performing a courtship display called bowing in which he puffs up his neck feathers, drops his head down, and turns around in circles. I think it is also doing some tail-dragging . This is when he fans out his tail and drags it on the ground while following close behind a female. I was surprised to learn that Rock Doves mate for life.
Most of the waterfowl at Lyman's Orchard is comprised of Mallards and Canada Geese. There are large numbers of these birds and occasionally reports of interesting species such as Cackling Geese. There are also a number of domestic species that can be seen here including Graylag Geese, funky-colored domestic mallards, and Muscovy Ducks. The facial pattern on the male Muscovy-(seen above)-is strangely unique. It looks like a chicken-duck to me. One thing I noticed about the pond at Lyman's is that there doesn't seem to be much of a mess considering all the ducks and geese that hang out there.They fence the pond in which helps but I'm thinking that someone must regularly clean the grounds. I'll have to ask next time I go there. They also have a nice country store called the Apple Barrel which has fresh fruit, baked goods and a great deli. There is a nice picnic area that overlooks the pond.
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Here is a video of two male mallards fighting it out. One was clearly dominant over the other. This video actually contained another minute of footage but I had to trim it down in order for it to upload onto the blog. I can assure you that as brutal as this footage seems, the beaten duck flew away without any apparent physical injury. I have to wonder if anything is going through his mind after such a humiliating defeat though.
A drove a few miles down the road to Mckenzie Reservoir in Wallingford. Earlier in the Fall a Barnacle Goose was seen there by many birders. The reservoir, which is intersected by a road, had a small area of open water at one end. There was a nice mix of species condensed into a very small area which included Canada Geese, Greylags, Mute Swans, Mallards, American Wigeons, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, and Gadwall.
The Hooded Mergansers semed to be braver in the company of Canada Geese.
This is the first close look I've had of a male Gadwall (left). I saw a distant flock of them along the western shore in January but it wasn't until Saturday that I was able to see some of the subtle detail of their plumage.
I may have started out taking photos of "soft targets" but I was able to see a variety of species and observe some interesting bird behavior in the process.