Tag Archives: Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)

A little unwell

The morning brought with it a sense of dread, a feeling of inescapable doom cloaked in pangs of agony.  And it went downhill from there.

Some ghoulish specter visited me during the night and deposited a sour stomach where my docile tummy had been the day before.

Stress, I think, or at least nerves and stress and fatigue exacerbating what should have been a minor upset stomach.  Though I do feel I’m getting a good ab workout…

Rushing slowly from minute to minute as the day zooms effortlessly by me in a race to bring the weekend to my doorstep, a weekend for being on call and lacking any rest or ability to relax looms just beyond the horizon of night, just over that midnight hill up ahead.

How I deplore being sick, and only slightly less than I deplore my job.  Pulling me under until I can no longer breathe, this employment embodies the scourge of plagues and the death of hope.

But I dare not dwell on it, not today at least.  If I’m to feel better, I must be calm and tranquil.

Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia) with the shadows of dew beneath the petals (20080920_12165)
Close-up of a female muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) as she sits beside the pier (20080920_12151)
A male regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius) perched on a twig as he watches me watch him (20080920_12216)
A dark-form female eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) grabbing a sip of nectar (20080921_12561)
An abandoned spider web from an unidentified orb weaver (20080921_12695)
A male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched high in a treetop (20080921_12709)
A red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) resting atop a log waiting for sunlight (20080921_12832)
A fallen leaf reduced to the lace outline of its veins (20080921_12722)

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia)

[2] Female muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)

[3] Male regal jumping spider (Phidippus regius)

[4] Dark-form female eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

[5] Abandoned spider web from unidentified orb weaver

[6] Male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

[7] Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

[8] Fallen leaf reduced to the lace outline of its veins

Faces that we meet and pass

A Monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus) walking through the grass (20080713_09580)

Monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus)

“Is he taking pictures of the grass?”

“Looks like it.”

“How weird.”

They didn’t notice the parakeet rummaging about the ground beneath a shade tree.  All they noticed was that I stood there taking photos of something they failed to see.

Close-up of a male green anole (Anolis carolinensis) as he challenges me with a full fan display (20080702_08942)

Male green anole (Anolis carolinensis)

“Dude, are you taking pictures of your patio fence?”

“No.  There’s a lizard standing here challenging me.  I thought I might snap a few pictures.”

He looks at the reptile before returning his gaze to me and saying, “Just a lizard?”


He sees just a lizard, just a small, insignificant life that offers nothing for his world.

I see a master of his territory, a predator controlling the local insect population, a marvelous creature with the climbing ability of a gecko and a color-changing ability superior to that of a chameleon.  I see a grand living thing.

Close-up of a female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) as she perches on a stem (20080712_09324)

Female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

“What are you taking pictures of?”

“Everything.  Birds, trees, flowers, lizards, insects—”

“Oh, cool.  Seen any interesting bugs?”

“There were some beautiful dragonflies around the marsh back there.”

“Really?  We must have missed them.”

They missed a plethora of life, so many insects filling the air and foliage that I found it impossible to count them.  All they noticed was the man taking photos as he walked the edge of the marsh and woodlands.

Close-up of Elvis, a male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), as he watches me take pictures (20080701_08879)

Male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)

“Wait, Mom.  I wanna take a picture of the ducks.”

“They’re always here, sweetheart.  Let’s look for something more interesting for you photograph.”

Her daughter noticed, noticed how uncommon the common can be, how beautiful nature is in all its forms even when we see it day after day.

I noticed, especially when Elvis walked right up to me to see what I was doing kneeling in the grass.  He and I have developed a bond of trust such that he’ll come to me to investigate and will gladly stand next to me in case I have something to offer.  He knows I won’t hurt him.  And he knows I never ignore him.

A male swan goose (Anser cygnoides) sleeping in the grass

Male swan goose (Anser cygnoides)

They climb out of their car and walk directly to where the swan geese are sleeping and preening.

The father lets his two small children chase the animals, each screaming in joy as the birds honk and flap their wings as they run.

I worry as there are goslings mixed in with the crowd.

I hope one of the parents beats up your brats, I think to myself.

Then I watch as a large male knocks over the young boy and bites at him before fleeing in the opposite direction.  The child screams in shock or pain, or both, and I laugh to myself.

They don’t notice the beauty of these creatures.  Both children and their father see nothing more than entertainment, creatures to be chased and abused to satisfy a need to be cruel, to be hateful.

Close-up of a great egret (Ardea alba) (20080628_08248)

Great egret (Ardea alba)

A dog rushes headlong toward ducks lounging in the shade at the lake’s edge.  The owner stands by and does nothing.

Wings flap and flutter as panic strikes the group.  They all retreat toward the water as they take flight.

The reeds next to the flocking birds hides something else, something besides the water lapping at the shore.

Frightened by the commotion and the rushing canine, an egret takes flight, limping as it struggles into the air.  Its leg is hurt such that it might be broken.

The dog cares little for such things and its owner even less.  They don’t notice the pain, the limp, or even the unnecessary stress their antics place on these animals.

But I notice.  I shake my head with evident disgust before walking away.  I ignore the dog’s owner as he heaves primitive insults at me for my obvious disapproval.

Close-up of a male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) as he perches on a leaf (20080621_07182)

Male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus)

“I was at the pool yesterday, and there are some really big bees over there by the bridge.”

“You mean the cicada killers?”

I already feel good that he knows what they are.

He continues, “The big wasps, you mean?”

“I guess so,” she replies.

“They’re harmless.  They won’t hurt you.  All they do is kill cicadas.”

By the look on her face, I doubt she believes him.

His response is so calm, so understanding, that I realize he has no intention of doing anything about the second wasp colony a block away from where I live.  He knows they pose no threat, knows they only live for a few months.

I feel a great sense of relief and pride that he notices them, understands them, and has no intention of interfering with their short lives.

The first walk (Part II)

A month ago I began an informal series of posts showing some photographs I captured during the first walk I took with my new camera, a Canon S5 IS.

Now quite some time after that first post, I’m finally getting to the second part (and who knows how long it will take to get to subsequent installments…).

My lack of timeliness notwithstanding, however, I hope you enjoy seeing the fruit of my initial experience memorializing moments of time with this great piece of photographic equipment.  The more I use it, the better the results, yet I couldn’t have been happier with what it accomplished on our first walk together.

A simple view of the lake with the sun rising behind me (IMG_0188)

A simple view of the lake with the sun rising behind me.

A small covert of American coots (Fulica americana) foraging on shore (IMG_0234)

A small covert of American coots (Fulica americana) foraging on shore.

A beautiful, large male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) keeping himself between me and his lady friend standing just behind and to the left of him (IMG_0209)

A beautiful, large male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) keeping himself
between me and his lady friend standing just behind and to the left of him.

Four American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), two preening and two beaking (which is how these large birds establish and maintain their pecking order) (IMG_0162)

Four American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), two
preening and two beaking (which is how these large birds establish
and maintain their pecking order).

Two ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight (IMG_0342)

Two ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) hunting for breakfast on the wet floodplain (IMG_0364)

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) hunting for breakfast on
the wet floodplain.

I promise to get back to this set of photos soon so I can complete this series before 2015…

[Prev | To be continued…]

March of the Muscovites

White Rock Lake boasts a thriving colony of Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata).  It also sports a diverse group of Muscovy hybrids (and mallard hybrids), but I’ll focus more on some of those in a later post.

Having grown up with Muscovy ducks, the species generally occupies a special place in my heart.  Without fail, each time I see one I am flooded with fond memories of my childhood friends, of watching them grow up, of seeing how readily they became members of our family.  They trusted us implicitly; we loved them without reservation.

So a thriving, feral Muscovy colony where I live provides more than just another animal species to see in its natural habitat; it also grants magical trips down Memory Lane.

A large Muscovy drake (male duck) appears to be the master of this domain.  He far outsizes the other drakes, and certainly he dwarfs the females, not to mention a great many of the other bird species with which he lives.

I posted one photo of him at xenogere unseen, but here’s another as I caught him taking a bit of a stretch.

A large male Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) standing on shore and stretching his wings

Not only impressive in size, he probably is considered quite a dashing drake, what with the spectacular salt-and-pepper coiffure, the pronounced caruncle, the beguiling brown eyes, and the multicolored beak.

A close-up of a male Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) showing the facial balding and pronounced caruncle

He came ashore and approached to within a few yards (a few meters) of me.  Unafraid and undaunted by the lumbering ape snapping photo after photo, he stood and watched me carefully as a much smaller female[1] scoured the shoreline for breakfast along with the American coots (Fulica americana).

A female Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) rummaging for food with some American coots (Fulica americana)

The male intently remained between us, always standing guard and never turning away from me as she grabbed a bite to eat.

Several days later, I came across more of the colony loitering about the north end of the lake.

Four Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) preening on a pier early in early morning light

I particularly liked the brown one.  While I’ve seen Muscovies ranging from iridescent green and black to mostly white with dark markings, a brown variation surprised and intrigued me.  Regrettably, I never got a better image aside from this one as it was quite early and the dim morning light and strong winds made photography a wee bit difficult.

A brown Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) walking along the shore

Finally, simply because I find him such an impressive beast, allow me to give you a shot demonstrating a bit of scale for the large drake seen earlier.  Here he is amongst some American coots.  For those who don’t know how large an American coot is, adults are approximately 16 inches (40 centimeters) long.  For a simple comparison, they are generally larger than an American football (in length and circumference).

A large male Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) towering over some American coots (Fulica americana)

Quite large, eh?  You should meet him in person. . .

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] There are those who undoubtedly will argue with me regarding the sex of the identified female in the third photo.  Those who do will also undoubtedly fail to have the personal experience with this species that I have.  Our ducks (see the first link in this post) both laid eggs, so they were obviously females.  They were both Muscovy ducks.  Finally, they both demonstrated the same limited facial balding and less pronounced caruncle that you see in the specified image in this post.  Given the evidence, including the duck’s size, in addition to many years of personal interaction with this species, I feel confident that picture shows a female.  If it is a male, the Muscovies I grew up with had to have been derelicts from some bizarre genetic experiment.