Wednesday, May 28, 2008

View from below.

I was teetering on the edge of the cat-tail marsh at Iona Beach Regional Park, trying to spy the Marsh Wren that was singing its syrinx out, and at the last second looked up as four fast-flying ducks zoomed overhead. Click. They were gone. I had seen a lot of white, so thought they were Common Mergansers.

I clicked back to the picture. Oh, a discrepancy. These were not needle-nosed mergs. These were Northern Shovelers. I can’t remember ever seeing them from this angle. Embarrassing, somehow.

Northern Shoveler, male.

Shovelers are “blue-winged” dabbling ducks, and seem to be phylogenetically closest to Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal. The flattened bill has comb-like lamellae along its length, which assist in straining invertebrates and plant material from the surface of ponds, sloughs, ditches etc., as the duck paddles along.

Northern Shoveler, female.

Northern Shovelers are residents on the south coast of British Columbia and breed throughout the province. Here’s a fun fact from All About Birds: When flushed from a its nest, a female shoveler defecates on her eggs to make them unappealing. So, if lost and hungry in the wilderness and hankering for an omelette, go for the Gadwall, give the shoveler a pass.

I never did find that Marsh Wren. It’s amazing that something so noisy can be completely invisible.

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