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.
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!)
We saw Gadwalls gathering in open water, sometimes in small groups like these, possibly two mated pairs, relaxing with members of their own species.
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?
We saw Northern Shovelers, feeding in swirling cells, circling around and around to stir up food sources they could filter through their bills.
Later we watched Northern Shovelers, American Coots, and Gadwalls, and even Mute Swans all walking on thin ice.
In the north marsh, Mallards, Northern Shovelers and Gadwalls took refuge together behind stalks of Swamp Rose Mallow.
My husband got my favorite shot of the day.
Birds of Lake, Pond and Marsh, 1999, John Eastman
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds, 2010, Donald & Lillian Stokes