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.
Mixed in with the mallards in the Hawrelak pond were a few ducks that looked different. They were clearly females in their modest drabness, but they did not look like mallard females. These were American Wigeons. Last time we encountered these we were at Coal Lake during our Big Day on May 4 together with the Edmonton Nature Club. The Hawrelak pond (it does not seem to have an official name) is man made and was build in 1964. The pond is popular with water fowl in the summer and human ice skaters in the winter. Although there is not public swimming it has been used for the swimming portion of triathlon competitions. Next week this year’s World Triathlon Championships are taking place which means that the water fowl will share the pond with swimmers racing through the water. I suspect the birds might simply just move somewhere else during the event. In the past the City of Edmonton has chlorinated the pond to make it safe for the swimmers as it had problems with blue-green algae. I assume that chlorinated water is as safe for water fowl as it is to humans, but it will be interesting to see if the water fowl return to the pond after the sporting event. Looks like I might head down to the park during the event, not to look at the athletic performances, but rather to check in on the wigeons and the other birds.
The benefits of visiting city parks is that the wildlife is accustomed to human presence and is far less likely to be wary of humans. Case in point, as we were circumambulating the pond in Hawrelak Park we came across this female mallard with a single duckling sitting at the waters edge mere meters away from picnicking people. As we approached, they (the mallards, that is) were completely unphased by our presence and just ignored us. I ended up taking a few mugshots of the duckling from about 2 meters away and neither duckling or mom seemed to mind at all. Normally I would keep my distance to an animal with young offspring, but these two seemed completely at ease with all the people around them. They could have easily jumped into the water and swam away. Perhaps they took their chances around human as sometimes, I imagine, it might pay off in the forms of edible treats. Female mallards, which care and raise the young on their own, can lay up do a dozen eggs. It appeared that this female was left with a single offspring still “living at home”.
Another hot day and another mid-day birding walk, this time in Hawrelak Park. The Ring-billed Gulls were out in full force. We had a picnic lunch in the shade of a tree and as soon as we were done our eating the gulls arrived for their eating. A pair of them were particularly bold as they walk right up to us and scanned our surrounding looking for a morsel to eat. They did manage to find a piece of bread hiding in the lawn only an arms length away from us. Because they were close and the bright mid-day sun they were easy to photograph. I rarely push my P1000 past the 1000 mm mark as the image quality rapidly deteriorates at longer focal lengths. Today, however, with the bright light, the gulls standing still watching our every move I could not resist pushing the focal length up to 1411 mm for a close up mug shot of one of the fellas. It pretty obvious why they are called Ring-billed Gulls. Whatever your opinion is about these opportunistic omnivores they are quite handsome and clever for someone with a bird brain. Any bird that’s can take advantage of humans to improve their own fortunes deserves our respect.