Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lemme Teal You Something Buddy!

I've had a wonderful time finding and photographing the various wintering waterfowl here in Arizona. The Shovelers, Pintails, Ring-Necks, and Scaups are all beautiful and pretty easy to access in the city. The Teal group has been much more challenging. I've not seen any Blue-Winged Teal this winter, and the Greenwing-Teal like to stay far out in the Gilbert Water Ranch Ponds, as do their much less numerous Cinnamon cousins.

I've spent a lot of time trying to improve my Teal cache, and have found them to be both entertaining and tricky subjects. This Teal was by far the most proximal of all the Teal I photographed. However, his exposure came with a strong condition; he wasn't exposed. By this I mean the stubborn duck kept his beak and part of his face underwater with more determination than a squirrel trying to infiltrate a bird feeder.

He wasn't sitting still either. He would actually scoot along the shallow water, pacing back and forth like an adorable little vacuum sucking up all the lovely bits of filth he could.

At 30 to 35 yards, this is the closest I've managed to get to a Cinnamon Teal. I don't know much about it, but of all the wintering waterfowl that are not actually rare visitors, the Cinnamons seem to have the most limited range. They're the only duck I've seen exclusively at the Water Ranch (though the Ranch is the only place that brings all the ducks together so splendidly), which means I can't count on finding them at the other smaller urban ponds for a close up. More patience is required.

Here's another Green-Winged Teal being all tealy. Maria observed that they combine the facial markings and colors of both Pintails and Wigeons. I agree, and in fact there's a lot in their torso that resembles the Pintail as well. They're very pretty ducks. It seems to have been an unusually warm and short winter all around the country. It's not over yet, but many of the birds here in the valley seem to be prematurely starting their breeding and nesting. I hope for a little more time with the Teal before they return to the northern climes.