Pleasant discovery in unpleasant times

My supply of stress and worry seems unending at present.  I therefore purchased escape this morning with several hours at the lake, an opportunity to walk, to reflect, to avoid, to recuperate, and to discover.

From some distance across the confluence in Sunset Bay, I noticed several birds that seemed unfamiliar to me.  Although they never approached but instead remained across the bay, I happily found them as I processed the photographs upon returning home.

Northern shovelers (Anas clypeata) are ubiquitous throughout the northern hemisphere, from Europe to Asia and all the way to North America.  And there’s no mistaking these ducks for any other species.

Three northern shovelers (Anas clypeata), two males and one female, swimming as a mated pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) hang out in the background (20080314_02681)

Small—smaller even than mallards, as you can see from that photo—the males are striking in their winter plumage.  Females, on the other hand, look nearly identical to mallard females (and those of several other species).

Yet it’s the bill of the bird that immediately identifies them.  Spatulate and long—like a shovel—the source of their name seems all to evident.

Despite not having a chance for a closer encounter with them, I did find a mated pair sleeping on the far side of the confluence amongst the mallards and coots and other waterfowl.

A mated pair of norther shovelers (Anas clypeata) sleeping near a male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) also taking a nap (20080314_02693)

Regrettably, their position on the furthest downhill bank made it near impossible to get a clear shot.  Mind you the litter didn’t help either.

As for the larger group bobbing along in the chopping water, they headed out toward the middle of the lake, undoubtedly in search of lunch.

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