Wednesday, January 2, 2013

e-gad walls

Some bird names are simply fun to say. Grebe. Phalarope. Sora. 
Ouzel. Magpie. Gadwall.

The origin of the last one is obscure, coming into being when British ornithologist Francis Willughby named the duck in 1676. Where the name gadwall came from is a mystery. 

As a palate-cleanser after Christmas, my tradition for seeing out the old year and ushering in the new is doing something low-key and unhurried, preferring to slip not stumble into the change of calendar.

Even though it was cold, Eliot and I chose to go birding at Cove Lake. And the most interesting thing we found was a raft of perhaps 40 gadwalls, not a particularly easy bird to ID from a distance. Like mallards, they're dabblers perhaps best noted for their nondescriptness.

Plain is plain. Soft gray-brown overall, except the males have black rumps. That's the first clue. Also, their heads are not sleek like a mallard but oddly shaped. "Pouffy," said Eliot. 

The maraschino on the top of our gadwall sorbet was a lone male hooded merganser—as flashy as the rest were bland—swimming along with the group. While the rest merely dabbled, the merganser dove deep into the water showing off his adroitness at not being surface-bound.

"I've got no strings, So I have fun, I'm not tied up to anyone, They've got strings, But you can see, There are no strings on me," sang Pinocchio.

1 comment:

Marie said...

His markings are really quite beautiful.