I've no real excuse for it, but I've been slower about learning my duck species than I have with other groups of birds during my continuing education about the bird world. It's possibly because I don't have a lot of them hanging out at my two work sites, or because I'm often distracted by other "glamorous" birds like cranes, geese, and herons. But I am starting to notice that there are ducks that aren't Mallards out there. Our recent visit at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge offered a few nice photographic angles on some Gadwalls (Anas strepera).
Some describe the Gadwalls as being not all that colorful, but to me the intricate complex pattern of their feathers is far more interesting than a flash of bright color. From a distance they may be gray or brown looking, but up close, their feathers form a fascinating maze.
If I were a duck hunter, of course I would know the Gadwalls right away. They are one of the most popular targets after Mallards and Green-winged Teals. Still, their numbers are rising as humans restore some of the wetlands that have been destroyed over the years.
The females Gadwalls are very similar to female Mallards, but this one was staying close to the male, so I won't stress myself over a precise identification.