Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waterfowl I.D.

Well another season of chasing feathers has for the most part come and gone. You might ask yourself what am I to do now with all my free time? One way to continue jaunts to the wetlands is to hone your waterfowl I.D. skills. Not only will you be able to smell the marsh and plan future hunts but you'll also gain knowledge about your feathered quarry.

I'll admit it, I am a sucker for bird watching of any kind although one of my favorites is visiting a Wildlife Refuge where waterfowl are busy with courtship rituals and staking out nesting territory. We are already in the midst of waterfowl bond pairings for nesting and this is a great time to hone your I.D. skills and knowledge. Not only that but with the birds being preoccupied with one another, it allows us often to get within closer proximity so as to see the details of their plumage. With courtship comes the dazzling colors that are typically not present during Fall hunting seasons. The electric baby blue of the Ruddy Ducks bill or the dazzling eye popping cinnamon of the Cinnamon Teal with his striking red eye. The drake Mallards green head, the drake N.Shoveler, drake Widgeon and the list goes on and on.

In the waterfowl world the males are the more colorful while the females are better camouflaged for nesting purposes, this does not hold true for all bird species. For instance the Wilson's Phalorope does a complete role reversal with the female being the more colorful and competing for males with courtship displays. The males are a drab color as they are in charge of nesting duties including incubating the eggs and rearing the chicks. They are a wonderful bird to watch as they often will spin in circles in the water to stir up food. Keep an eye out for them this Spring. There are a total of 3 types of Phalorope all worth noting.

Another one of my favorites is the American Bittern and boy does this bird know about blending in to their surroundings, more so in the Fall than Spring. They are not large in stature but have a very distinct and recognizable vocal. Several times when I've seen them they have been in tules quite aware of my presence and doing their best to blend in to their surroundings. They do so by raising their bill towards the sky, staying motionless and rotating their eyes forward much like that of a chamealeon. They do an amazing job of becoming a tule with their streaked throat, breast and belly. Their very cool and one I keep an eye out for when birding. On a few occasions I've even seen them at Lowlands in S.W. OR during waterfowl season.

So if you've got the marsh blues go out and enjoy them by honing your waterfowl  I.D. skills. Be sure to take your binoculars (camera too) and a good bird identification book with you and or a friend who is knowledgeable. Here's a couple good books to get you started; Sibley Guides, National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of N.A.. Pack a lunch and make a day of it, trust me it will keep you invigorated, satiate your marsh fix and hone your skills. Where ever you are there is a marsh or Nat'l Wildlife Refuge not to far away. Do some research online and perhaps go to a place you've never been and I like to stop in at Refuge Headquarters to get some local insights from one of their employees. They know where to go and what to keep an eye out for. Plus if there are any unusual birds in the area you may be in for a once in a lifetime sighting. Have fun!

 Women's Hunting Journal     Integrity For The Hunt


Alyssa Johnson said...


A woman after my own heart! At my community college unfortunately Ornithology is not offered...the prof who taught it for years FINALLY retired :) and no one has filled his spot yet. So I've been trying to jam my brain with birds (particularly waterfowl) this past year. Last semester I took a waterfowl ID course offered by the state that you must have taken and passed to be able to hunt waterfowl.

ANYWAY, waterfowling is a new hobby of mine, and I appreciate the post! Love the Bittern BTW...I was lucky enough to witness one doing this swaying thing last fall :)

Terry Scoville said...

Bearly Alyssa, thanks so much for your comment. I just love the Amer. Bittern I hope you've heard their vocal, it's mesmerizing and once you've heard it you'll never forget it. Sometimes I'll go on YouTube just to get a listen of them. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Blessed said...

Now you're making me want to go birdwatching in the marsh! :) So far we've had to be happy with just identifying our back yard birds - my kids love it! Can't wait to get them out into the great outdoors - they will be fascinated by all the wildlife they can see.

Terry Scoville said...

I'm itching too Blessed. It is such a great vehicle for kids to get interested in the outdoors. Considering all the colors that fly through the air, hard not to get excited about it. Like flying candy! What time can we meet up?

James Brown said...

Great article, this is such an interesting and informative article a great information about the hunting..nice blog.
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