Category Archives: Waterfowl

Northern Shovelers Courtship Ritual (Video)

On my last trip to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, I took this video of Northern Shovelers doing a courtship ritual.  I wouldn’t call it a dance.. It was more like a ritual feeding where they swam in circles with their beaks underwater.  Northern Shovelers are dabbling ducks with wide bills.  Their coloration reminds me of Mallards, but their spoon shaped bills is a big difference.

I just did some research and watched a few other videos, and apparently this really is part of their dance.  These birds are common all across the United States.  Here’s a video that someone took of them in Central Park, New York:

And this video from Whalon Lake has really good footage of the male’s display with wing flaps:

Twin Barns at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge



Here is the trail that leads from the parking lot and goes out to the Twin Barns.  There is a wooden boardwalk (part of the Twin Barns Loop Trail) that parallels this.  The geese here are so friendly!   I got really close to one and got a photo of its feet:

Canada Geese Feet

Canada Geese Feet

I saw a couple of Great Blue Herons.  There was a child who was so excited to tell me that there was one along the path.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There were also a bunch of American Coots in the waterland next to the path:


American Coots

There were lots of Tree Swallows flying around the barns.   Usually they are hard to photograph because they fly so fast, but they were landing on the barn.  I got this photo:


Tree Swallows


Aren’t they beautiful?  I love their violet and green colors.  I wonder if they are going to make nests on the barn.  I will be going back to see!



Greater White-fronted Goose at Nisqually Refuge


I took these photos at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Thurston County, Washington.   It’s the first time I’ve seen the Greater White Fronted Goose, but I have a feeling that it won’t be the last time!  Depending on the range map, they either stay here all Winter, or are just moving through on their migratory journey far north.  They spend their summers in Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and the Nunavut.

I actually didn’t realize that they were geese when I saw them.  I just thought they were some large duck.  But my husband knew they were geese right away.  The only geese I am familiar with are the Canada and Cackling Geese.

There were at least 4 of these White Fronted Geese right next to the Nisqually Estuary Trail.  They were doing all sorts of lovely poses for me.  Aren’t they funny looking?  At least I can remember their name by their funny white face.  I love it when names actually describe a bird’s appearance.


Birdwatching at Mountain View Cemetery

I like watching birds at peaceful places.  A nearby cemetery is just the right place.  They have a lake and a swamp that attracts waterfowl, and right now blossoming cherry trees that the finches like too.

If you’ve never considered birding at a graveyard, you might be missing out on some easy to reach locations.  It’s also a good place to avoid the unscrupulous characters that might be hanging out in urban parks.  I know I’m hesitant to bird at some city parks because of frequent car brake-ins.

The Mountain View Memorial Park is listed as a birding hot spot on the ebird website.   You can explore birding hotspots to discover new locations.  I also like to use the lists of birds people saw at a nearby hotspot when I’m trying to identify a bird that I’m unfamiliar with.  I just google the birds that other people saw and see if anything’s a match.

Here are some photos I took at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, WA.

Blue Heron in Marsh

Great Blue Heron in Marsh

There is apparently a resident Great Blue Heron.  Maybe he’s looking for frogs.  I’ve seen Great Blue Herons in both New York and Florida before. Their range is the entire United States and beyond.

Common Merganser Catches a Fish

Common Merganser Catches a Fish

Wow!   This is my first spotting of the Common Merganser, which is a diving duck.  They have a red, pointy bill that’s serrated.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

These are Northern Shovelers.  The male’s head color is similar to a Mallard, which is a duck that I’m much more familiar with.  But, the Northern Shovelers have wider bills.  Also, the females lack the dark “saddle” shaped coloration that the Mallards have on their bills.


Did you know that finches eat flowers?   I think this is a House Finch, but he could be a Purple Finch.  I have never been able to tell the difference.  It appeared that he was eating the petals of these cherry blossoms.    I tried to research whether they actually eat the petals, and could find no confirmation that they do.  But, it does say on Cornell’s website that purple finches bite off the base of flowers and eat the nectar.  Unlike Chickadees, who eat spiders and insects, House Finches are almost 100% vegetarian. They usually eat seeds, buds, and fruits.