Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Puddle Ducks

Ok, so the Papago Ponds aren't exactly puddles, but they're pretty small. The Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix do a great job of drawing in desert specialist species, hummingbirds, and some migrants. The Papago Ponds, just a block down the street, take care of the waterfowl.
It's nice to have these popular and smaller water features. They've allowed me to get some nice and close photos of Shovelers, Pintails, Ring-Necked Ducks, and Coots. It seems like there's always something interesting floating in these ponds; they're definitely worth visiting by if you're in the neighborhood.

The star this time was this single male Canvasback. This is only the second Canvasback I've seen this winter, and the first full-plumage male. Of course, he was the only duck that kept well away from the shore. Canvasbacks are the largest and longest of the diving ducks, and are pretty handsome even from far away.

They dive to the bottom of the ponds and pull up the roots and tubers of aquatic plants. Sometimes when they resurface they'll be quite muddy.

These diving ducks are tricky to photograph, but they're a lot of fun to watch.

Then there's the Pied-Billed Grebe, which can be found on most of the ponds throughout Phoenix and is content to float close to the shore unless he's feeling embarrassed about something, in which case he'll dive out of sight.

This grumpy Ring-Necked Duck really seemed like he was looking for a fight.

This mild-mannered Gadwall did not want to fight at all. I can't blame him, he's got his nice breeding plumage coming in on his head; I wouldn't want to get that hairdo messed up either.

The biggest curiosity of the day was this Black-Necked Stilt. The Stilts themselves are a common enough sight at the waterworks around town, but I've never seen them floating in the water before. I've only ever seen them in the shallows, and never in more than a few inches of water. They have very long skinny toothpick legs and non-palmated feet, so swimming can't be easy for them.

However, a nearby man with his young daughters was tossing bread in the water and this Stilt decided it was worth the risk, so in he went! He acquitted himself admirably, but definitely avoided any rough stuff with the competitive Coots nearby.