Sunday, July 02, 2006

Birding at the Zoo

Saturday I walked around at the Falls of the Ohio to see what birds were out and about. The Corps of Engineers had opened all the gates in the dam, so the river was full and rushing. The water birds all went someplace else to look for breakfast. On the land though, a Song Sparrow and an Indigo Bunting politely sat in dead branches singing their hearts out. A Flicker was holding on to the underside of a branch looking for bugs, before giving it up and moving to the top again. All in all, a pleasant morning, except for the birders' maxim:
If you don't have your camera, you are bound to see some good birds and wish you had it.
Our family traditionally goes to the Louisville Zoo on at least one holiday, and today the kids and I went. You don't have to go out into the woods to see some birds and get some great photos. In fact, it's easier at the Zoo, because the birds either can't fly off, or aren't interested in hiding from you in the first place! The zookeeper for the Lorikeets is a friend of my daughter's and a most enthusiastic birder! After the female birds had their fill of nectar from the visitors, he blew a whistle and they all went back inside the building. Then he warned us about the males about to be released. "They will fly out in a group, from one side of the enclosure to another, perhaps a couple of times. If you don't think it sounds like fun to have 26 parrots flying at you, stand back, or duck down if they get too close." The birds did exactly as predicted! I love having a bird that likes to be photographed.

The wild ducks and geese know a good thing when they see it, and take full advantage of the free feed and safe nesting areas at the Zoo. One goose gave a loud squawk and jumped up in the lake, then we saw a turtle come up from beneath it with a big grin on his face. Nothing like goosing a goose, he said. We saw the standard Mallards, and some other smaller ducks with red eyes and a white throat. I think these are Wood Ducks in their non-breeding plummage. Once I saw a comment that the only way to tell what a brown duck is is to watch who she hangs out with. That may work sometimes, but not today. We saw brown ducks that could have been female Mallards, or maybe female Wood Ducks, or maybe Black Ducks? It didn't have an orange bill like the mallard. They might have been juveniles of those species, or males in non-breeding plummage. (Virtual head shaking) Do male ducks loose their fancy feathers once the breeding season is over?

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