Tag Archives: pekin duck (Anas domesticus)

Remember when it was warm?

I began pondering warm weather as I searched through my collection of photos for a nature post.  You see, it’s been cold here in North Texas for the last few days, and warm before that, and cold before that, and so on ad nauseam since autumn last year.  No surprises lie beneath the surface of our on-again off-again winter.  In fact, that’s quite normal ’round these parts.

Nevertheless, I stood on the patio a few moments ago with brisk cool winds embracing me while warm sunshine rained down from above, and in that moment I wondered to myself how much longer winter’s grasp could restrain Texas’ oppressive heat.  It would soon return, I feared.

Yet that instance of consideration aided me in finding just the right photos to post.

These pictures are from last summer.  I can tell you the heat and humidity were both quite overwhelming at the time I captured these shots in June 2006.  I wore shorts and a tank top as I sauntered around the lake, yet the dearth of clothing failed to provide any relief from scorching temperatures and stifling moisture filling the air.  It was hot.  Damn hot, in fact.  Part of that stemmed from a muggy atmosphere dripping with water vapor.  You could feel it wrap around your body like warm wet cotton the moment you stepped out the door.

Despite the meteorological obstacles, however, I enjoyed a rather placid early afternoon with the various forms of life that inhabit the world wherein I live.

One such creature, a great egret (Ardea alba), strolled along the shore of White Rock’s Sunset Bay.  The snowy white bird gave no thought to the laundry list of waterfowl sharing its domain.

A great egret (Ardea alba) strolling along the shore while a mallard drake (Anas platyrhynchos) stands camouflaged on land

Did you notice the mallard drake (Anas platyrhynchos) perfectly camouflaged in the grass?  I didn’t notice him until I processed the photo for posting.  His plumage blends in well with the shore, don’t you think?

My gaze continued to follow the egret as it made its way no more than three feet (a meter) from the shore, tall lanky legs carefully lifted and set down in shallows to carry it onward.  I suspected it was heading toward the confluence of several major tributaries that feed the lake, what normally presents as a good feeding ground for such predators.

While it walked, many other aquatic birds made their way toward solid ground… and shade.  Yet the egret never paused when navigating around white and brown Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese, Anser cygnoides) and mallard ducks jockeying for first rights to the best cool spots.

A great egret (Ardea alba) strolling along the shore while mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and Chinese geese (Anser cygnoides) make their way toward land

When finally the time came for the egret to enter the cove, it was not alone.  A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stealthily haunted the area.  In fact, I watched the heron for some time and found it amazing that the winged beast hardly moved at all.  Its head looked this way and that, its eyes, I’m sure, fixed on one thing or another in the meantime, yet it stood motionless, a statue carved from feathers and firmly positioned in a stoic stance.  Much unlike the egret’s constant motion, the heron seemed impermeable to all stimuli save whatever ran through its avian brain.

A great egret (Ardea alba) walking in the shallows as a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stands motionless

Each of these temporal tidbits forever captured in digital amber remind me of what is to come as we move rapidly away from winter and toward spring, then summer, and finally autumn again… only to revisit winter in less than a year.  Between now and the first cold snap wherein we Texans find ourselves considering what arctic invader has visited our lands, we will see a menagerie of weather that has boggled the minds of scientists and non-scientists alike for more centuries than can be counted.  Our geographic position offers us some of the most robust meteorological swings and extremes as can be found on our little planet.  And I’d want it no other way.

[Update] I have since identified the white duck in the center of the second image as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).

Hidden amongst the detritus

Several weeks after torrential rains had caused significant flooding in this area, I took a walk at the lake (more from that walk here, here, and here).  That the flooding had been extensive is uncontested.  In fact, a week later the floodplain was still a lake unto itself, and that provided an interesting canvas for freezing temperatures.

But during my walk before the weather turned cold, the results of the flooding lay everywhere.  Most of it was natural debris, such as twigs and sticks and leaves.  Occasional tidbits of litter also could be found, yet the flood’s most apparent traces were pieces and parts of local flora.

My walk took me close to the pier in Sunset Bay, and I spied a large number of ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) standing upon it in the morning light.  They were preening and gabbing, and then gabbing and preening.  I made my way toward them to see if I could get a photo or two.

Ring-billed gulls on the pier with American coots beneath them and double-crested cormorants in the background

From that vantage, I could also see double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) further out in the water and a few American coots (Fulica americana) bobbing along under and beside the pier.  Something else caught my attention, too.  Behind the brush and tucked away on top of a large pile of flood-related debris that had been washed ashore, I spied a dab of white in the lower-left corner of the frame, something too large to be a bit of flotsam.  Besides, it was moving.

I ventured further out on the pier for a better look.  What I discovered was a beautiful white duck.  Like the gulls, it had nestled down in a comfy spot to preen and enjoy some early sunshine… you know, something to take the chill out of the morning air.

A white duck preening while nestled atop natural debris on the shore

This appears to be the same species of duck I’ve seen before but could not identify.  White ducks come in various flavors and… wait for it… they all look alike: white, and like ducks.  There are many of this particular breed at the lake.  In fact, I also caught a few of them doing a drive-by while I took some video of an egret.

Because she seemed comfortable and busy with her morning routine, I left her where she was and bothered her no more.  Although I’ll add she didn’t seem bothered by me much at all.  After one quick look when I first approached her, she went right back to grooming and cleaning without a second glance.

[Update] I have since identified the white duck as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).

The silence of snow :: First light

In the night it turned to snow, which still falls, and now covers the wet ground three or four inches deep. It is a very damp snow or sleet, perhaps mixed with rain, which the strong northwest wind plasters to that side of the trees and houses. I never saw the blue in snow so bright as this damp, dark, stormy morning at 7 A.M., as I was coming down the railroad. I did not have to make a hole in it, but I saw it some rods off in the deep, narrow ravines of the drifts and under their edges or eaves, like the serenest blue of heaven, though the sky was, of course, wholly concealed by the driving snow-storm; suggesting that in darkest storms we may still have the hue of heaven in us.

— Henry David Thoreau

Ducks swimming along a snow-flanked creek
Looking across the lake with heavy snow falling while gulls fly overhead
Looking across a snow-covered field toward woodlands blanketed in white
Ducks swimming along a snow-flanked creek meandering into the woods

Afternoon fishing . . . and a drive-by

Dressed in little and wishing I could take that off, the summer sun baked the shore and me with it.  Nevertheless, I held my ground in defiant agony.  I had arrived to watch the wildlife, and watching the wildlife was precisely what I intended to do.

As I melted on the pier with no available cover, I noticed a great egret (Ardea alba) roaming about in the shallows in search of lunch.  The distance between us prevented me from capturing a better video than the one included here, but I still believe you can get the feel of the moment.

The white egret successfully captures a fish and swallows it down, and then it takes a quick drink of water to ensure the fishy has something to swim in while being digested.  Or at least that’s what I thought.

What I did not take note of until after that drink was that a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was standing mere feet away from the egret, watching silently, perhaps even jealously for the meal one enjoyed and the other did not.  Only after the egret began moving away did the heron start milling around as if it had only just remembered why it was standing there in the water.

But it didn’t stop there.  Even as I pondered whether to stop the video and leave the edge of the pier where sunlight reflected into my face from the surface of the lake, I heard the sound of quacking nearby that seemed to be growing closer and closer.  At the end of the video, you’ll see the duck drive-by performed by the unidentifiable threesome I spoke of previously.  There are two white females and the one dark male, none of whom seem willing to provide their taxonomic credentials.  Perhaps another time…

[Update] I have since identified the white duck as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).

The unidentifiables

A white and black duck casually floating by (146_4688)

[you’d never believe how difficult it is to identify some birds; it’s almost as hard as identifying insects… but not quite; suffice it to say I was never able to determine the species of these two waterfowl; it’s possible the darker one is a hybrid (mallard x black?), but I’m guessing at that; the white one could be a white mallard (who’d ever heard of such a thing!), but again I’m guessing; I don’t believe either of those guesses given the size of these birds (at least half again as large as a normal mallard), although I could be wrong; if you have any ideas on what they are, please speak up; what I think I know is that the white one is a female and the dark one is a male]

[Update] I have since identified the white duck as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).