It Takes Two to Pinwheel

After these past several field trips in the rain, my Nature Vancouver group and I almost felt like we deserved today: look at that sky! It wasn’t warm, barely above freezing most of the day, but irresistibly beautiful all the same at Vanier Park and on the shores of English Bay.

As you might expect in Vancouver in December, our morning’s list was heavily weighted towards waterfowl. Of our 36 species, fully fifteen and a half were anatids, among them some local specialties. The little pond at Vanier Park produced the expected Eurasian Wigeon; there was general agreement that this male rather outshines the females we’d been watching on the last couple of trips to Jericho!

The Canada Goose flock, a bit standoffish of late, finally stood still to let us scan it; the results included two other species of goose, a single juvenile Snow Goose and this lovely minima Cackling Goose.

And the rarest bird of the day was the reliable little Bucephala hybrid, bobbing and diving more or less on his own in the vicinity of the Surf and White-winged Scoters.

But the interesting sighitng of the morning was provided by a common anatid, Northern Shoveler. Peter discovered two on the pond, swimming circles around each other in the classic shoveler “pinwheel.”

Click for a dizzying video.

Both birds were brown, but one–the right-hand bird in the photo above–showed a solid black bill and a yellow eye, sexing it a male; closer inspection revealed a decided ruddy tone to many feathers of the flank.

The molts of Northern Shoveler remain something of a mystery, but this is apparently a first-cycle male at the very dullest extreme, easily overlooked in a first scan, but a real eye-opener if you pause to look close.