Why it’s called a Ring-necked Duck (even though ring-billed would make more sense)

Photo by Chris Bosak Ring-necked Duck in Darien, March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Ring-necked Duck in Darien, March 2014.

It took years for me to start calling this duck by it’s proper name: Ring-necked Duck. I would invariably blurt out “Look, Ring-billed Duck.” But, unlike the Ring-billed Gull, this bird is not named for an obvious ring around its bill.

Instead it is named after a hardly-noticeable ring around its neck. Conditions, including the posture of the duck, need to be right to even see the neck ring. The ring around the bill, however, is obvious in most conditions, unless the duck is sleeping with its bill tucked into its back feathers. Even the female, which is mostly brown in color, has a ring around her bill. (She also has a faint ring around her neck.)

So why Ring-necked Duck? Ornithologists in the 1800s named many birds by studying dead specimens. Apparently with the bird so close the chestnut colored neck band is more obvious, so it was named as such. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to the average birder (like me) in the field, but it is what it is. The above photo shows both the ringed neck and ringed bill of the beautiful duck.

Ring-necked Ducks are seen throughout New England, mostly in fresh-water ponds and lakes, from late fall through early spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Ring-necked Ducks rest at a pond in Darien, March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pair of Ring-necked Ducks rest at a pond in Darien, March 2014.

Redhead makes surprise visit

Photo by Chris Bosak Redhead seen in Darien pond in March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Redhead seen in Darien pond in March 2014.

I drove past the pond at first, assuming nothing of note would be there. But that nagging voice in the back of my head said: “Go back and check. It’ll take five minutes and you’re right here anyway.” I listened to that voice, as I usually do, and it paid off, as it often does.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Redhead swims at a pond in Darien in March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Redhead swims at a pond in Darien in March 2014.

The pond at Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien is small but often fairly productive. It’s a good place to see Wood Ducks in the fall and spring. Hooded Mergansers are frequent visitors in winter when the water isn’t frozen over. Ring-necked Ducks are occasional visitors. And, of course, Canada Geese and Mallards are usually there.

But one day this week, not only were Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks all there, but a surprise visitor was there as well. Redheads are a beautiful medium-sized duck that are seen occasionally in New England. I’ve seen massive flocks of them in the Midwest, but only a handful of times have I seen them in New England. They are seen sometimes within huge flocks of scaup. But I’ve never seen one in New England at a pond as small as this one. It was interesting to see it among the mergansers and ring-neckeds.

This is a male Redhead. The female is much duller in color, mostly tannish brown.

In a post later this week I’ll let you know how the Redhead seemed to get along with the other ducks in the small pond.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Redhead seen in Darien in March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Redhead seen in Darien in March 2014.

Oh, and there’s a loon

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

I drove past Veterans Park the other day and, as is usually the case in winter, I pulled in to see what winter ducks might be around. I immediately spotted a female Red-breasted Merganser swimming somewhat near the shore. It was cloudy and the light was no at all ideal, but I managed to get a few very average photos of the bird.

It kept moving south slowly until it came up on a male Bufflehead. The two birds ignored each other, but for a brief moment they were mere feet away from each other. I snapped a few (again average) photos.  I always like to see birds together that you don’t always see “hanging out” near each other.

As I was photographing the merganser and Bufflehead I noticed out of the corner of my other eye a loon close to the shore. When did that pop up? I wondered. Loons are diving birds (as are mergansers and Buffleheads) and often “pop up” far from where they dove. I refocused and took some shots of the loon. It was a Red-throated Loon, a somewhat common occurrence in the Norwalk Harbor and Long Island Sound. They breed in the Arctic and some spend their winters here in New England. Common Loons, which breed in northern New England and farther north, are also fairly common birds in the winter around here. The loons will be heading north soon so I was happy to get this late sighting.

Soon enough the loon I was photographing dove again. I never did see where it popped up next.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-throated Loon swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Red-breasted Merganser swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Red-breasted Merganser swims in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Red-breasted Merganser and a male Bufflehead swim in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Red-breasted Merganser and a male Bufflehead swim in Norwalk Harbor in this March 2014 photo.

BirdsofNewEngland’s random bird thought of the day: Ring-necked Ducks

Photo by Chris Bosak Ring-necked Ducks swim at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in Darien, March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Ring-necked Ducks swim at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, March 2014.

In my last post about getting out there to check out the ducks before they are gone for the summer, I listed a bunch of ducks that winter throughout New England, but breed farther north. I left off that list Ring-necked Duck. It just didn’t come to mind when I was compiling the list. Sure enough, the next day I went out for a quick bird walk and the only ducks I saw were Ring-necked Ducks. I immediately thought: Hey, I don’t think I mentioned Ring-necked Ducks in that last post.

So, finally getting its due, here you have the Ring-necked Duck, a very handsome duck that spends its winters here in New England (and well south, too) and breeds in northern New England and into Canada. As you can see from the photo, a more apt name might be Ring-billed Duck, but the scientists who named it likely had a dead specimen in hand and the ring around its neck — which is difficult to see in the field — was more visible. It took me years to stop calling it Ring-billed Duck, but I eventually got used to it.

Also, as you can see from the photo, the species is sexually dimorphic: the males and females look different. All ducks seen in New England are sexually dimorphic with the males often brilliantly colored and females usually more dull in color.

Young Peregrine Falcon in flight

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Peregrine Falcon flies overhead in Norwalk, CT, Dec. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Peregrine Falcon flies overhead in Norwalk, CT, Dec. 2013.

I spotted this young Peregrine Falcon flying around Veterans Park in East Norwalk a few weeks ago. It had a half-eaten prey (a crow, I think) in an open part of the park about 100 yards away, but kept circling around the parking lot where I was. It even has blood on its hooked bill. As many of you know, I’ve been photographing a few Peregrine Falcons along the Norwalk River where I work. (With limited success, admittedly.) This rare and close opportunity was certainly welcomed considering the distance from which I normally have to try to photograph them. Notice the brown plumage of this youngster, as opposed to the blue-gray of the adult.

I have some more photos of this beauty in flight that I will post later.

Sanderlings and more Sanderlings

Photo by Chris Bosak A Sanderling runs along with food on the shore of Long Beach in Stratford, CT, Jan. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Sanderling runs along with food on the shore of Long Beach in Stratford, CT, Jan. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak Sanderlings on the shore of Long Beach in Stratford, CT, Jan. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Sanderlings and Dunlins on the shore of Long Beach in Stratford, CT, Jan. 2014.

A recent trip to Long Beach in Stratford, CT, yielded one Snowy Owl sighting _ it was far in the distance, but still nice to see, of course. It also yielded more close-up views of Sanderlings, another bird that breeds in the Arctic. Sanderlings are small and common shorebirds that are seen along New England coastal areas from fall through spring, and even in summer at times. Sanderlings are the shorebirds you see chasing the fading waves looking for food and running away from the incoming waves. So much fun to watch.

They also make for good photographic subjects. So with that said, here are several Sanderling photos I took earlier this week. Click on “continue reading” for lots more photos. Continue reading