Friday, December 14, 2012

Lake Manawa, IA Birding Account

After reading Tom's post from Wednesday, December 5, Birds: Information and Taxonomy, I thought it might be nice to share some of my experiences birding, to include some recent pictures that I have taken.  There are many different ways to birdwatch.  One could causally birdwatch as a secondary activity while doing any other number of primary outdoor activities, including walking or hiking for instance.  If one makes birdwatching the primary activity, it is likely to yield more birds, however.  Recently I joined an online community of Nebraska birdwatchers and whenever there is a unique, new, or uncommon sighting it is posted and that information is e-mailed to me automatically.  Thus the local birdwatchers know where to look for some of the more rare or interesting sightings, and I have taken advantage of this in the last few months.  Following below are a handful of my recent bird pictures, which although not unusual, were some firsts for me.
This was a  mature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I photographed at Lake Manawa State Park, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Dec. 9.   One thing I learned about them recently is that it takes 4-5 years for their head to turn completely white and their beak to turn completely yellow.  I would guess this one is at least that old.
Here is another picture of the same bird.  This was quite a cold day with high temperatures in the 20s and strong winds.  This day I saw at least 15 Bald Eagles, and many were flying over the lake, presumably hunting for fish (their favorite food) although I never witnessed a catch. 
Here are a couple immature eagles that still have quite a bit of dark coloration.  I wonder if they are from this season, perhaps nestlings? 
Here is a group of Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) that were standing near the shore.  Ring-billed Gulls can be found along the entire US coastline in the winter months, but also occur inland.  On the left is an immature Gull.

Here is a closer look at the immature.  Note the pinkish beak and legs compared to the yellow features of the adult.  Also the black portion on the beak is more extensive, almost appearing to be dipped in black ink!
Here is a subset of a larger group of Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis).  One distinctive feature of these particular ducks are distinctive way they hold their spiky tails.  Most of the Ruddy Ducks that I saw appeared to be roosting as they floated on the lake. 
Here is a close-up of a male, and one can see the rusty coloring that gives the duck its name. 
That's all a have for now from Lake Manawa, Iowa.  I hope you enjoyed!  Tom W.

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