December 11, 2018
My window of opportunity for a picture walk today came early in the morning. I would have preferred to have taken pictures in the afternoon when it was going to be warmer and sunnier, but I had other commitments. So, by 8:30 a.m., I was out the door and driving to the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery– where there’s almost always a new bird to see!
Today’s new bird (for me) was a Common Goldeneye, described as “a medium sized duck with a large head”. Goldeneyes are also described as “diving ducks with streamlined bodies and short tails.” I don’t remember ever seeing them before, so I was super excited to find them today (I would have been even happier had they been close enough for a good picture!)
Swimming around with the goldeneyes, were mallards, gadwalls, buffleheads, Canadian geese, trumpeter swans and one lowly American coot (I don’t see them very often so I was pretty excited about that one too!). But it was nearly impossible for me to get decent pictures of most of the birds– they were so far away; plus, as soon as they saw me coming, they swam in the opposite direction!
As I was attempting to take pictures along the edge of the pond, I heard a very familiar sound in the air, one that I hear almost every time I’m out at the hatchery— a belted kingfisher. It’s a very distinctive sound, described as “a strident, mechanical rattle” which is given “in response to the slightest disturbance” (like people walking around taking pictures!)
The kingfisher was perched on a telephone wire across the road and was so far away that she looked more like a tiny speck than a bird. With the benefit of my telephoto lens, though, I was able to see by its coloration that it was female. The female kingfisher is predominately bluish-gray with a white chest and neck band. In addition, she has a chestnut colored belly band and flanks. Surprisingly, the female kingfisher is more colorful than her male counterpart– who lacks the chestnut belly band.
Another distinctive characteristic for the kingfisher is its large beak– which has been described as “thick and dagger-like”. Periodically, the kingfisher would dive down then fly back up to her wire perch. I knew she must be catching fish in a stream or pond below, but I couldn’t see the water and she was too far away for me to tell if she had caught anything– until I looked at the pictures on my computer later and saw a small fish in her beak.
I always enjoy my walks at the fish hatchery, but it’s usually difficult for me to get good pictures of the birds on the pond because they are often too far away—and it’s impossible to sneak up on them! I’ll either have to get a longer lens or lower my standards!