Wonders of a Winter Walk – The Marsh

Sunday was a beautiful winter day – cold, but not windy, sunny, with just a dusting of fresh snow that fell over night.  So we decided to go to ‘the marsh’ to look for wintering birds.

Gadwall Pair

Gadwall Pair

The marsh to us is the Abbott Marshlands, known until recently as the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh.  We went to the access point called Spring Lake at Roebling Park in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.  It’s a reliable refuge for ducks looking to spend the winter in a place where there is enough open water to swim and feed.  As a result, it’s a reliable refuge for birders, too.  Sunday was not a disappointment.  Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teal, American Coots, and Mallards were all present.  Gadwalls, shown below assembling in a large flock on the ice at Spring Lake, were the most common species.  (It reminds me of some conventions I’ve attended!)

A large flock of Gadwalls, on ice at Spring Lake

A large flock of Gadwalls, on ice at Spring Lake

We saw Gadwalls gathering in open water, sometimes in small groups like these, possibly two mated pairs, relaxing with members of their own species.

Gadwalls, possibly mated pairs

Gadwalls, possibly mated pairs

The Gadwalls fed in groups, sometimes joined by American Coots.  Coots are known to snatch food away from other birds, but Gadwalls are among the species that reverse that role.  Were the Gadwalls stealing from the Coots, or the Coots from the Gadwalls, or were they working together as a cooperative group?

Gadwalls with American Coots, feeding

Gadwalls with American Coots, feeding

We saw Northern Shovelers, feeding in swirling cells, circling around and around to stir up food sources they could filter through their bills.

Northern Shovelers feeding in rotating cell, with Gadwall

Northern Shovelers feeding in rotating cell, with Gadwall

Later we watched Northern Shovelers, American Coots, and Gadwalls, and even Mute Swans all walking on thin ice.

Northern Shoveler, adult male

Northern Shoveler, adult male

Northern Shoveler, male, likely first year

Northern Shoveler, female

Northern Shoveler, female

American Coot, skating on thin ice

American Coot, skating on thin ice

In the north marsh, Mallards, Northern Shovelers and Gadwalls took refuge together behind stalks of Swamp Rose Mallow.

Wintering Ducks - Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Gadwalls

Wintering Ducks – Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Gadwalls

My husband got my favorite shot of the day.

Gadwall in flight over Spring Lake

Gadwall in flight over Spring Lake

Resources:

Birds of Lake, Pond and Marsh, 1999, John Eastman

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds, 2010, Donald & Lillian Stokes

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gadwall/lifehistory

http://cmboviewfromthecape.blogspot.com/2012/12/when-is-female-northern-shoveler-not.html

7 thoughts on “Wonders of a Winter Walk – The Marsh

  1. I love going to look at over wintering ducks. Especially enjoyed your picture of the coot – what great feet they have! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a look at one on land (or ice!)

      • Great stuff Mary Anne! I especially like the mixed ducks among the reeds. In years passed there were hundreds of pintails north of Taylorsville – where the fire house is now. You might still see some of them in the early spring.

  2. Pingback: Reasons to Love Winter | The Natural Web

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