Friday, March 10, 2017

Northern Shovelers at the Merced National WIldlife Refuge

It's probably the fault of Walt Disney, or maybe Warner Brothers cartoons, but ducks are kind of comical. It could be their ungainly waddle when they are on land, or their odd shaped beaks. It could be the way many of them dabble for their food, putting their rumps high in the air. They always seem vaguely ridiculous. But as funny as they might seem, the ducks are keenly adapted to their environment. They may be ungainly on land, but they are superb swimmers. Their beaks may be oddly shaped, but they are ideal for getting the kinds of foods available in the watery environments where they live. Dabbling is a good strategy for food gathering in shallow water.

Truth be told, the dabbling ducks probably think humans are one of the strangest looking creatures in all of existence.
In any case, I found the pictures above particularly comical, seeing the look of the colorful male as kind of clueless while the female behind him seemed perfectly satisfied. I wonder what conversation just took place? Is there a caption we could add?
These beautiful ducks are called Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), and I see them quite often in the wetlands around our valley. I got these pictures today during our exploration of the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. The Snow and Ross's Geese are still there, as are the Sandhill Cranes, but they were gathered in the interior marshes at the refuge, leaving the pools along the auto-tour to the American Coots and the Shovelers.
The Northern Shoveler is one of the more common ducks, with a range that includes most of the northern hemisphere, though they are mainly found in North America, Europe, and India. Their population has remained stable while many other species have declined in abundance over the last half century.

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