Owls and Shovelers

Northern Shoveler

December 3, 2017 (Picture Walk Archive)

Mel and I had heard and read that the Muskegon County Wastewater Management (MCWM) site was a great place to find Snowy Owls– as well as many other interesting birds. Neither one of us had ever seen a snowy owl before and had been hoping to get to Muskegon before winter weather set in for good. (Muskegon is about an hour and a half drive from where we live.)

We watched the weather reports for a week and it looked like Sunday (December 3, 2017) would be the best day to go—sunny and clear with relatively mild temperatures—perfect!

The MCWM system encompasses a huge tract of land, so, when Mel and I arrived, it wasn’t exactly clear where we’d find the snowy owls. Eventually, though, we figured it out–and I could barely contain myself. There were ducks right outside our car window that I had never seen before—Northern Shovelers! I was trying to stuff my lunch down my throat and take pictures from the car at the same time– it was NOT working! So, I quickly finished my sandwich, got out of the car and started ‘shooting’ birds without simultaneously choking down a sandwich!

Oh my goodness! I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures of the shovelers! They have such a funny name and an equally funny face! I also captured a few other ducks I had never seen before—male and female Ruddy Ducks as well as a female Long Tailed Duck.

Snowy Owl

When Mel and I finally found the snowy owl, it was somewhat anti-climatic– because the shovelers had been so colorful and so much fun to watch. The problem with the snowy owl was that there were so many people taking his picture, it was hard to even get a good angle to shoot. Plus, when there are that many people taking pictures, it feels like ‘competitive shooting’ and it doesn’t seem relaxing.  What I ended up with was a mostly white bird on mostly white rocks with a mostly bright sky in the background. In other words, I had fairly washed out picture. I was really surprised, though, that  in spite of all the people and all the distractions, the snowy owl sat in the exact same spot for hours! Amazing!

What a wonderful and unusual place to find birds!

Large groups of northern shovelers swim rapidly in circles to collect food from the surface by creating a funnel effect.
Female Northern Shoveler
To deter predators from destroying her clutch, the female defecates on her nest when she’s flushed off
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Male Northern Shoveler
The northern shoveler has a large shovel- or spoon-shaped bill that is twice as wide at its tip than at its base, and equipped with a row of bristles or comb-like structures used to filter food from the water
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