Northern Shovelers Synchronized Swimming

by Larry Jordan on March 1, 2009

Northern Shoveler Male (Drake) all photos by Larry Jordan

Northern Shoveler Female (Duck)

This pair of Northern Shovelers was one of the many sites we were able to enjoy on an Audubon outing with our local Wintu Audubon group yesterday.  If you want to bird some great spots in your local area, contact, or better yet join, your local Audubon Society.  They will provide regular outings with experienced birders so you can not only see several bird species you may not otherwise encounter, you can quickly learn bird behavior and where the best birding spots are located.

This outing included a trip to Rancho Esquon, a private 900 acre working rice farm and Llano Seco, part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in northern California.  I will be taking you to see more of the SNWR Complex in future posts.  See the map at the end of the post for the Llano Seco location.

We observed over 50 bird species at these two locations including such notables as the Eurasian Green-winged Teal, White-faced Ibis, Greater White-fronted Goose and this Golden Eagle being harrassed by the much smaller Red-tailed Hawk.

Golden Eagle Being Harassed By A Red-tailed Hawk

I could go on about all the beautiful sites we observed which also included the largest number of Black-crowned Night Herons I have ever seen.  Numbering nearly 100 birds, they were flying around their roosting trees in huge flocks.

But I digress.  This post is about the beautiful synchronized swimming I observed by the dabbling ducks at Llano Seco.  Dabbling ducks feed mainly on water plants by tipping up their rear ends (upending) in the shallows.  This feeding behavior always reminds me of the synchronized swimming event in the Olympics.  As you can see from these photos, the dabbling ducks could place well in the competition, beginning with the Northern Pintails.

Northern Pintails

However, the Northern Shovelers took the gold this day

Here is the map I promised of the Llano Seco Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Natural Moments March 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I too love watching Nature synchronize with one another.

Natural Momentss last blog post..New Perspectives from Bellingham, Washington


kallen305 March 1, 2009 at 6:10 pm

LOVE the pictures. The syncronized butt shots were fabulous! For some reason all my butt shots of waterfowl turn out blury!

I had no idea that a red tailed would harass and eagle. Very interesting.

kallen305s last blog post..My Gull experiment gone wrong-Pigeon casualty from Hawk


Thomas March 1, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Ho Ho…beautiful series and you have captured every key moment in their synchronized swimming sequence.

Thomass last blog post..Birding in India – White-browed Fantail Flycatcher


Larry March 1, 2009 at 10:50 pm

@Bernie thanks for stopping by and it’s good to see you’re back!

@Kim I have no comment on your butt shots 😉 but as far as the harassment goes, most birds of prey are harassed by other smaller birds that are more maneuverable than they. Crow harasses Red-tail harasses Eagle. Just last week I witnessed a Red-shouldered Hawk being harassed by a much more agile Kestrel. I figured that the RSHA must have been in the Kestrel’s territory. Check out my posts on mobbing behavior here and here

@Thomas thank you for your kind words. Your series on the White-browed Fantail Flycatcher are astonishing!


Amber Coakley March 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Can you hear me squealing and clapping? 10! 10! 10! to all of them. I enjoyed this post very much, and am looking forward to more about your trip.

Amber Coakleys last blog post..Duck Duck Goose – Snow Goose


Larry March 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm

@Amber thanks a bunch for your enthusiasm. I will post some more of this trip when I get a chance. I am also going to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge this Saturday to spend a day photographing birds. Wish me luck as I hope to capture a nice shot of a Peregrine Falcon!


Mary Carlson March 6, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Great post, Larry. I still want to get a chance to visit SNWR. When is the best time of year to go to see the most species? I’ll also have to check out Ranchos Esquon/Llano Seco.

Mary Carlsons last blog post..Skywatch Friday # 34


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