This pair of Mottled Ducks was swimming in and out of patches of late afternoon sun on a shallow pond.
I stopped at a bench at the edge of the pond and they watched me as I watched them.
Baily Tract, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
January 6, 2020
I used the Merlin App to identify these as Mottled Ducks. Further reading at Cornell’s All About Birds:
It’s reminiscent of a female Mallard or an American Black Duck, but this is the closely related Mottled Duck. They’re so closely related that hybridization, especially with Mallards, poses a real threat to the Mottled Duck’s future.
In Florida, hybridization with introduced Mallards has produced many so-called “Muddled Ducks,” and care is needed to confirm identification of a “pure” Mottled Duck.
Ducks have been showing up around the various ponds I frequent and I was hoping for some decent in-flight views. The ducks had other ideas this day and kept their flight patterns close to the marsh grass.
A Great Blue Heron was a little more obliging as he winged past me.
Yesterday was the first time I’ve seen more than two or three Wood Ducks together since last spring’s ducklings matured earlier in the summer.
Several were lined up on an Alligator ramp as I approached and a few small groups were paddling around in the pond. They tend to be skittish and their general direction was away from me, but a couple more flew onto the ramp.
I heard a Hawk call in the distance and these two groups and about twenty more that I didn’t even know were there in the tree line along my path flew off in a frenzy. Sadly, no photos of that!
I’ve stopped to watch Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in this marshy area several times this summer. One day last week a few were quite close to the walk way and were less skittish than on previous visits.
Some of the chicks are nearly adult size but are still sticking close to a parent.
This one had been standing on the end of the of the walkway and decided to join the others…
…landing in the short greenery with the family group behind him.
Shortly after the nice surprise of seeing a Wood Duck with two ducklings on Sunday I came upon this one with eight ducklings.
They were paddling along all together in a tight group at first but eventually spread out enough for me to count them.
They followed the pond to the corner then did an about face and headed back the way they came, sticking pretty close to mom. The water was reflecting the dead brown grass on the bank so this image isn’t that pretty, but you can see each duckling distinctly.
Small, compact and swimming at a steady pace, I thought this was a Grebe at first when I caught a glimpse through the reeds.
I was able to get to a gap in the reeds for a better view and discovered it was a female Bufflehead. I listened and looked on both sides of the marsh dike where I was walking and didn’t see any others.