These little guys had me puzzled–so many sandpipers look alike to me! But when they did a short flight, they gave themselves away: their white rumps in flight marked them as–what else?–White-rumped Sandpipers. A first for me.
Sometimes, from a distance, a Northern Shoveler can look like a Mallard to me. But it’s fun to see the ducks swimming in groups of concentric circles like in the zoomed-in photo above—then I can be pretty sure they’re Shovelers that I’m looking at, as they go round and round sifting the water near the surface for food with their bills.
This young Grey Catbird was scampering out in the open, rather than hiding out under bushes as they usually like to do. They look a lot like Northern Mockingbirds, but their black caps and mewing sound clearly identify them.
When the lake freezes over, the birds have to squeeze into a smaller space in the un-iced parts of the lake, but the different species of ducks co-exist surprisingly well considering that they are all after a similar limited food supply of small plants and fish in the constrained area.
In this picture you can see the large Canadian Geese, the male and female Mallards with their wings spread, the small American Coots with their white bills and dark bodies, and lastly, a bunch of Northern Shovelers, standing in the back and floating in the water, dark green head and dark, flat-ended bills, and bodies with white breasts and brown flanks.
It was fascinating to see all these different kinds of birds band together and turn around as one when a few aggressive gulls approached; the gulls were not welcome to this party—perhaps they would not play well with others?—and the ducks soon mobbed the gulls and forced them to go elsewhere.
This jaunty little guy, a Tufted Titmouse, is a kind of bird I usually see hanging out with its cousin, the Black-Capped Chickadee, but this one was foraging all alone. They have a distinct way of flying from a branch down to the ground—they dive bomb straight down headfirst as if they were a gull about to catch a fish, so that even though they’re small, they can be identified from a distance.
This male (the red nape) Downy Woodpecker looks a lot like a miniature version of its larger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker. They’ve both got very similar markings including a white back, but the Downy is around 6″ compared to the Hairy’s 9″.
One advantage of trying to photograph birds in winter is that you can get a clearer shot without leaves in the way.
Here’s the Ruddy Duck. They’re small and like to travel in large same-species groups. The male and female both have chestnut sides and backs, with sharp tails; the male has white cheek patches. In the photo above you can see two males in the foreground and a female behind them.
This guy looks to me to be an adult male House Finch, though I supose it could be a Purple Finch. I’m going with house finch because there appears to be a bit too much brown on the face for a Purple Finch.