Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ducks at the National Zoo

This afternoon I took the Metro over to the National Zoo to see what kind of waterfowl was hanging around in the ponds and stream. As it turned out, the ponds at the bird house were nearly deserted, with only seven mallards staying there. Not a single wood duck or black duck was to be seen up there.

Mallards and Wood Ducks in Rock Creek

So I walked on down to Rock Creek. As I reached the stream there was a burst of activity above my head. Robin after robin flew from one tree to the next. It appeared that a very large flock was moving down the path ahead of me. Mixed in with this crowd were a few ruby-crowned kinglets, downy woodpeckers, and cardinals.

There were plenty of mallards and wood ducks in the stream, but the numbers were still far below what I am used to at the zoo. (I think that the prolonged warm spells must be keeping them somewhere else.) I tried taking photographs of the ducks but with limited success. The mallard shots turned out a little better than the wood ducks. For some reason the camera had a hard time focus on the wood ducks. Whether this was because they are smaller or because they blend in against the bank better, I do not know. (To the right is the best of my wood duck shots from this afternoon.) I love watching wood ducks because their feathers have a silky sheen to them - more so than other birds of their family. Wood ducks are also one of the more exotic-looking birds in this region. Their appearance makes it unsurprising that they are more closely related to Asian mandarin ducks than to other waterfowl in North America.

The path along the creek exits the zoo at Rock Creek Parkway and then follows the creek under two major bridges, the Duke Ellington Bridge (Calvert Street) and the Taft Bridge (Connecticut Avenue). Below is a picture of the latter.


Wood Duck


Sharp-shinned Hawk

Downy Woodpecker

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Cedar Waxwing

American Robin

White-breasted Nuthatch

Blue Jay

European Starling

House Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

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