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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Long-Tailed Ducks at Lighthouse Park

[Port Huron, Michigan. January 2013]

While this is surely subjective, one could argue that the long-tailed duck is more handsome in winter than in summer. And indeed, this sea duck is in alternate plumage in winter and basic plumage in summer.

The long-tailed duck [fka "old-squaw") is a marine duck of the polar regions and thus found not only in North America but also globally. However, despite its global presence, it is classified as "Vulnerable" -- having seen drastic declines (up to 65%) in some regions (i.e., the Baltic); nevertheless, it is still shot regularly in both Europe and the US.

Male shown with a female in the St. Clair river, Port Huron, Michigan.

The ducks were seen in considerable numbers but really far from shore which made photography difficult. However, a couple of barges passing under the Blue Water bridge caused enough commotion to offer some in-flight photography opportunities.

This handsome and unique duck is known to be quite vocal -- chattering constantly and noisily. And, this characteristic has earned the long-tailed duck its American colloquial name -- "old squaw" (also "old wives"); stemming from the curious notion that the spirits of (native American) women were transmigrated into noisy waterfowl after they died. This name was discontinued (for obvious reasons) by the American Ornithologists Union in 2000 and the name "Long-tailed Duck" is now consistent with how the duck is known outside the US.

The male shown above was photographed at Lighthouse Park, Port Huron, Michigan.

Leaving Port Huron, and taking advantage of the balmy January Michigan weather (inexplicably reaching the low 60's), I stopped at Lake St. Clair Metropark where I ran into fellow birder (and videographer) Kevin R.  Kevin is an ace birder who has a knack for finding the birds that everyone else is chasing.

Birding fortunes thus improved, I got some superb looks (and a few shots) of a brown creeper and a red-tailed hawk.

Brown Creeper dispensing with an arachnid.

Red-tailed hawk (sub-adult).

All in all, a productive morning yielding a lifer (the long-tailed duck) and an enjoyable outing at Lake St. Clair Metropark.

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