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Buffleheads, Goldeneye and a Butcher Bird

January 23, 2013
Male Bufflehead

Bufflehead male

The snow is falling heavily now, but it was a good day to go out for a walk. I ended up in the marina and saw a pair of Buffleheads. They are small cavity nesters that have a long-term pair bond. I like these little ducks but they can be frustrating to photograph. Not only do they dive frequently and are shy of any approach – they are mostly blackish and white ducks that do not show up well against grey winter water. But the males have a gorgeous iridescent head of feathers that makes them one of the more subtle beauties in the duck world.

Male and Female Bufflehead

Bufflehead male and female

Female Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow’s Goldeneye first year female

The first year female Barrow’s Goldeneye shown here was diving for food in the same area. Goldeneyes are cavity nesters too. I have seen the females and broods in the small wooded ponds of the area. Broods can be very large and may include young from different hens. Lost chicks may join up with another brood. Goldeneye, like the Buffleheads have a long-term male-female bond, but Goldeneye males desert the females at incubation and join them later in the season.

Northern Shrike in Hawthorne

Northern Shrike immature perched in a hawthorne tree

There is a great area further up the river where you can still find pit house remnants of the Ktunaxa people, the submerged foundations of a Doukhabour farm and remnants of the old apple orchard. There are also thickets of hawthorne trees. I have seen Northern Shrikes, and sometimes Pygmy Owls here in past winters. I was lucky today and saw an immature Northern Shrike. These small greyish birds with the hooked beak have earned the name “butcher bird”. They impale prey (mice, birds, and large insects) on tree spines or on barbed wire. I have never seen this “larder”, but perhaps shrikes don’t store food as often on the wintering grounds. They may change locations too often to return to a “larder” or perhaps food is not so plentiful in winter that they need to store it.

Gone!

…and goodbye – tail of a diving Barrow’s female

There sure is a lot of snow falling out there! Tomorrow may be a good day for snowshoeing and finding tracks in the snow- and maybe the shrike will still be here.

Photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A. Siderius 2013.

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