Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tongue-Gnawing Rarity...A Falcated Duck Abides...This Cat Is Distracting...Colusa National Wildlife Refuge.




Why this strapping duck was called a teal at any point, I don't know. All photos today are from Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, CA.

"There was a fast and terrible speed to it that was almost biblical - like the Book of Revelation, where the rivers fill with blood and the seeds of the land turn to poison and men will gnaw their tongues for pain." - Hunter S. Thompson, in Generation of Swine.

This description summed up how I felt shortly after I learned of Colusa National Wildlife Refuge's Falcated Duck. After the initial giddiness of learning about the bird wore off, the terrible reality that I might not see it set in and I began to panic. Terrible flashbacks of The Ivory Gull Incident blazed through my mind. What began as joy turned into a nightmarish sludge of nail-biting anxiety and Doom. Before I knew what had happened, I had torn out large clumps of hair and had chewed my nails down to bloody nubs....

Which was all for nothing, as you all know, as I was able to see the bird back in December, the day after it was found. But it was just so damn far away that it just didn't feel right, weeks later, when I saw daily reports of the bird being right next to the road and offering itself up for decent quality photographs. So I did what I thought was best and headed back there earlier this month.





A Falcated Duck is a true crippler. Not only is it an exceptionally rare bird ("MEGA"), it's also extremely good looking, and sports a classy word in its name ("Falcated", obvi) that no nonbirders have even heard of and relatively few birders comprehend. The majority of the world's population spends the winter in China, Japan and the Koreas, so this bird is a long way from home. For once, the California birding community has not seriously entertained the few feeble and baseless claims that this was a captive-released individual.


The duck stands out among its peers. I'm really glad that it survived hunting season. Suck it, trophy hunters!


Falcation!!!! "Falcated" means "sickle-shaped", which is a reference to those fancy extra-long tertial feathers you see here.


This is probably my best shot of a Greater White-fronted Goose. I am now accepting glory and adulation from all.


I would venture to guess that Florida's Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has been the most blogged about National Wildlife Refuge the past several months in the Birdosphere, due to a recent birding festival held nearby and it's proximity to various highly gifted bird photographers. For a change of pace, I figured I would give some more publicity to northern California's own Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. No, it doesn't have Roseate Spoonbills and Reddish Egrets, but it was the only place in the Lower 48 where someone could see a Falcated Duck this winter.

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge is located north of Sacramento, CA, just off Highway 5, so it's an easy detour for a birder travelling up or down the center of the state. It is definitely managed as a classic waterfowl refuge, but of course the huge wetland complex attracts all sorts of raptors and other marsh birds. I've only thoroughly birded there in winter, and I'm curious about what it draws in during migration.


Greater White-fronted Geese. The lead bird is an immature (note lack of black barring on the belly).



I don't have a lot of silhouette shots I really like, but I think this White-faced Ibis came out ok.



This Great Egret helped out the photograph by putting its neck in Question Mark Position. By the way, there is a cat licking the hell out of my right arm right now and it's making it difficult to concentrate.



Most people will tell you that Northern Pintails are their favorite dabbling duck. But most people have not seen a Falcated Duck.


Unsurprisingly, the only approachable American Bittern I have seen in years also happened to be in some of the worst light possible. Oh well, still a rad bird.


I'll get you next time bittern.....next time.


Gadwall, a strict adherent to the philosophy of Economy Of Style. 


Snow Geese abound!


You asked for it....The Bellowing Falcated. What did it sound like? A bizarre mix of Russian and Chinese...a very communist quack, I suppose.

12 comments:

  1. I believe the popular word these days is "epic," and for once it's appropriate to use the word. Totes epic Ducking bro Woooo!

    That Falcated Duck is beautiful. I had always assumed it was named for Falco. You know, from Star Fox and "Rock Me Amadeus"? Anyway thanks for clearing that up.

    There are a lot of stellar photos here too, not just with the Falcated and the Geese but the Bittern in his element as well. I'd never noticed how the Great White-Fronted bellies resemble birch bark, very cool.

    Thanks for sharing Seagull Steve. May the sun always be at your back, the birds flying near overhead, and their dropping falling not upon you! Amen.

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    1. Star Fox. What a great game. I don't mind bird droppings much anymore, although the stench of albatross puke will always stay with me. Thanks for the compliments as always.

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  2. I'm amazed at how many beautiful ducks there are. Before I started birding, a duck was just a duck. And often, to the naked eye, that's all they are. But put a pair of binoculars up, and wowzer!! The Falcated IS a beauty, one I'd never know about if not for your hair raising...I'm mean ripping, efforts. I enjoyed all of your photos this morning. I've only seen a bittern once and I don't think they are particularly easy to photograph. But they surely are fun to observe!!

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    1. The variety of ducks that show up in the country is quite impressive...there are still a handful left that I haven't seen (i.e. half the eiders), and that'll probably be the case for a while. Bitterns are always fun to watch, unless they are just flying away from you over a marsh.

      I think my hair would have simply fallen out if I had not seen the Falcated.

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  3. Way to represent the Colusa NWR! You have outdone yourself! That Falcated one is quite lovely!

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    1. I forgot to mention...free admission...always appreciated at a refuge. Thanks Tammy!

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  4. Good duck from Asian side. Asian shit, you know! Good shit as Reuion of your favorite, Good Riddance

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    1. Yeah dude, I just heard about that!!! I was happy with their last show (I was there), but I would totally see them again. Thanks for loaning us one of your ducks.

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  5. Hmm. I thought I commented on this. I think I called you a bastard or something. Can't recall. Pretty duck. Tell it to stay put till May.

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    1. You're right. I am a bastard. The duck isn't really dependable anymore, but no skin off my back.

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  6. oh geez guys! there's some pretty serious shit in this post. I'm not sure I can handle it all. Sweet shots! Stop yanking your pubes out though.

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