Saturday, February 8, 2014

Long-tails in love

Valentine's Day is just around the corner- bundles of roses are for sale, chocolates take up a whole aisle in Walgreens, and those sweetheart candies with messages on them (my favorite, personally) go on sale for half-price after the 14th! While you think and wrack your mind about something special for your loved one, everything around you seemingly acquires a certain level of personified love. It may be as obvious as two Mute Swans crossing at the right moment in your scope forming a heart with their necks, or as odd as a simple sign pointing the way to the person who makes your heart beat a little faster.

Still, if you find yourself not being able to spend time with your heart thumper, you can take a little solace in witnessing love forming by the sea. You can hear the musical love notes before you see them- jumping out of your car at a rock jetty or walking out of the dunes to the beach, the first thing you'll probably hear is a Long-tailed Duck's best version of singing. Almost incessantly in large groups, it's a comforting sound to resident birders that the long winter is progressing its way into spring and that you're not the only one thinking of warmer weather.

Tom Johnson and I recently had the opportunity to immerse ourselves with a flock of loving seaducks at the Avalon Seawatch. The light was fantastic and the waves forgiving making way for an awesome intimate experience with these great birds.

Long-tailed Duck
Male Long-tailed Duck- what a beauty! Nothing quite compares to a male Long-tail's handsomeness, from it's pink and black bill, to it's long wispy tail feathers [photo by Sam Galick]

Long-tailed Duck
Female Long-tailed Duck- A very striking lady-bird with a seemingly powdered black and white face, all dolled up looking their best for potential mates. A couple of easy markers making this a female- the lack of any pink in the bill and the absence of a white carpal bar [photo by Sam Galick].

Long-tailed Ducks
Paired up- Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the lady goes first when it comes to ducks? It's either the guys being polite or they're just chasing after the girls. I just haven't figured out which one it is yet...[phoyo by Sam Galick].

Long-tailed Duck
Show off!- If you watch them for long enough, they'll forget you're there. This guy was a little too ambitious trying to land close to a female and skipped off the water like a flat rock! [Photo by Sam Galick]

Long-tailed Duck
This is getting ridiculous! A moment captured after a male Long-tailed Duck called in mid-flight. You can still see it's last notes erupting from it's throat! [Photo by Sam Galick]
Red-necked Grebe
There are a number of waterbirds you'll surely run into this time of the year while looking for Long-tails- Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters, but the deep freeze a couple weeks ago left many other species of waterbirds moving south for open water. A large movement of Greater & Lesser Scaup, and Red-necked Grebes have moved into the county. The interesting thing about forced migration of waterfowl are their tendency to stick it out where ever they find themselves afterward. Moving south to avoid getting locked into a lake is a necessity, but the zugunruhe (migratory restlessness) to move back north isn't present. Find any odd corner of open water along the barrier islands and you'll see what I mean!

Yes, it really is a magical time along the shore at the moment, and the very reason why we set our Longtails in Love program to take place close to Valentine's Day. We'll be heading out to the barrier islands on Saturday, February 15th why not join us and soak up the amazing atmosphere. You can check for details on our Activities Calendar or call 609-861-0700 to register beforehand.