David Graham is a very serious birder, equipped with high quality binoculars and a spotting scope. He invited Sue and me to tag along last Saturday on a trip to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge area on Route 20, west of Auburn. Tom Meier, the resident naturalist at Baltimore Woods, lead the group and it was very revealing. These devoted observers see lots of stuff that is just background to casual watchers like Sue and I.
When we drove in, there seemed to be very little action in the pool next to the driveway. It has been altered in that it has a lot of vegetation that makes it more agreeable to dabbler-type ducks.
In the heavy growth section, we saw lots of teal and mallards, and a shoveler or two. Shovelers have a big wide bill that stirs up the bottom so that they can find a morsel or two to swallow. In good water conditions with relatively open, clear water, you can spot the muddy trail of a feeding shoveler duck. I had never seen a green-headed teal before and there were a good number in the growth. David said that he also spotted a couple of white-billed coots in amongst the rushes.
We were able to spot eagles near their nests and they seem to be a mile away at least. Looking out over the growth, a northern harrier was spotted, hunting for small critters like mice and voles. This is their usual activity. I was not able to see this one working, but with direction, I was able to spot it.
Progressing along the road, we saw a group of godwills. There is a note in “The Sibley Guide to Birds” that many of the mallards and godwills, etc. cross-breed with each other until some unusual color distributions result. You may remember that two weeks ago, Charlie Major asked about a black mallard with a white triangle on his chest.