Field Biology

Back at the Park

The project I’ve been working on lately involves not one single desert tortoise. Instead, it just involves a lot of birds. My job is to identify them and keep track of them, keeping them safe from the nearby construction. When I first arrived onsite, I just saw a lot of ducks, and maybe a few cranes. I’ve maintained a prideful resistance to the ‘sport’ of birding, but dammit…I’m getting pretty good at this. Now all the ducks have names! Our most common duck out there is called a merganser. For a whole day I stumbled over that word and kept coming up with Manganese, which is not a bird but an element. Marganizer is also not the correct way to pronounce merganser. Now I not only pronounce the species name like a pro, I’m saying weird things like “ooh! look at that black crowned night heron’s crown filaments!”

It’s baby-making season and a lot of birds are migrating. Every day we get somebody new out on the lake and it’s pretty exciting. Each ‘duck’ has it’s own little bit of awesome. I have two favorite species right now. The first one is a resident, there are 3 that have been hanging around for a few months. They are called pie-billed grebes and they make me talk in baby-talk every time I see one.

pie-billed grebe

You would understand more if you saw how tiny he was next to all the ducks. Just now when I googled for that picture I found this, which makes me love them even more:

pie-billed grebe plus baby

and then I found this, which makes me look beyond their cute appearance and see all of their AWESOME:

pie-billed grebe hates frogs

My other favorite is a visitor. I’ve seen him and his gf two days this week, but not today. I hope they come back because they look like they came from a cartoon. He is called a ruddy duck and his beak turns blue only in breeding season. That reminds me of those clear spoons we used to get in cereal boxes that turned blue when we put them into our milk.

who you callin' ruddy?

And because I know that nobody gives a shit about birds, I’ll go write about a canyon now.


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