It started raining as soon as I arrived at Hawrelak park. I sat in the car for a few minutes debating if I should call off my nature walk or if I should brave the rain and proceed with my planed walk. In end end I decided to go for the walk. Is was not raining too hard and I had brought my camera’s rain gear so I should be good. Perhaps not surprising most birds had taken refuge from the rain and were nowhere to be seen, but – perhaps unsurprising – the waterfowl were out. An assortment of waterfowl were hanging out on the pond, seemingly oblivious to the rain. There were quite a few what looked like immature Common Goldeneye hanging chugging around, diving and popping up all over the place. I am not 100% sure about the identification as these fellas were all brown with black bills and eyes. Common Goldneyes seem to be the best match.
Common Goldeneyes have a distance appearance as adults. Females having a chocolate brown head, yellow eyes and males have a distinct white cheek patch. When I spotted this fella chugging through the pond in Hawrelak park my initial hunch was that its overall shape reminded me of a Common Goldeneye, yet none of the other physical characteristics were there (no yellow eye, no check patch). Upon closer research this is likely an immature Common Goldeneye. Common Goldeneyes are diving ducks and this fella certainly lived up to that reputation as it was energetically diving, popping up for a few seconds and then disappearing under water again. If you look closely you can see his head covered in water droplets and sporting a fuzzy wet do.
As I crossed the pedestrian bridge across the Whitemud Creek a lone female Common Goldeneye (Bucephalus clangula) was swimming around in the creek eyeing me curiously. Common Goldeneyes are medium-sized diving ducks where the females are brunettes with a piercing golden-yellow eye. There are two species of goldeneyes, the Common Goldeneye, which as the name suggests is more common, and, the more rare, Barrow’s Goldeneye. While the males of the two species are easy to tell apart, the females are more difficult to distinguish as they appear nearly identical. According to Sibley the Barrow’s Goldeneye female has a darker brown head than the Common Goldeneye which does not help me at all since I did not have the two species next to each other for comparison. Perhaps the best distinguishing characteristic between the females of the two species for someone like me that has only seen a handful of these species is the bill color. According to Sibley the female Barrow’s Goldeneye has a “usually mostly yellow” bill while the female of the Common Goldeneye has a “usually mostly black” bill. Looking at the picture I would say that her bill is definitely in the category “mostly black”; ergo, it is a Common Goldeneye.