Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bufflehead Duck (Bucephala albeola)

I saw them first on Thanksgiving Day (November 27th), 2008. Two adult Bufflehead drakes (Bucephala albeola) swimming side by side as if ‘in formation’ in Segment 2 of the Marburg Creek Reservoir in Fort Yargo State Park. I was ‘past’ them at the point (Segment 2-3). It was windy. The wind was blowing from the southwest. To have any chance of getting good photos, I would have had to row back along Segments 15-16-17 against the wind to circle around to Segment 2 – in a hurry in order to be able to drift toward them to take photographs. It was unlikely that I would be successful.

So I made do with some distance photos and the excitement of being able to see them at all.

I went out again the following day (November 28th). Unlike Thanksgiving Day, it was cloudy. Although there was a slight breeze from the east, the water was calm. I had no expectations of seeing them again. However, when I turned onto Segment 4, they were swimming or, rather, drifting in the bay bounded by Segments, 4, 5, and 6. They were on the Segment 6 side of the bay and were drifting across the bay. By the time I reached Segment 6, they were in the middle and drifting towards the Segment 4 shore. I stopped opposite the, turned the boat and let the wind drift me towards them, taking photos repeatedly lest they should startle and fly away.

At first they were drifting side by side as if ‘in formation.’

They were very relaxed. Gradually they drifted out of the formation and around to where they were facing each other apparently unperturbed by my presence. In fact, at one point, one of them tucked his head down as if to sleep and I had to whistle to them to get him to raise his head.

They drifter further apart but still facing each other.

A close-up…

Finally, I drifted into their ‘no go’ zone and they decided it was time to extend the distance between us. They turned tail and paddled off to a safe distance. I could have repeated the drift but I had been drifting for approximately 30 minutes and had taken 60+ photos.

I don’t know how long they stayed on the lake. How long before Thanksgiving Day they had arrived and exactly when they left but they were gone by November 30th, the next date I was on the lake. This is the nature of transient visits to Fort Yargo State Park by migrating birds.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification and Range Resource:

- The Cornell Institute of Ornithology - All About Birds: Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
- Sibley, AD. 2000. National Audobon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds. p. 101. Alfred A Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-679-45122-6

Related post:

- Marburg Creek Reservoir: Fort Yargo State Park
- Loose with a Camera…


Amber Coakley said...

Hi, I am visiting from IATB. Lovely pair of Buffleheads! I have never seen a Bufflehead, but now's the season for me to look.

Joan said...

Good luck, Amber.
They're wonderful to watch.

Jan Axel & Gloriela said...

Those are gorgeous birds. Well done!