Dear Jane and Other Devotees of Nature,
As usual, I missed the Olympics and Oscars , but happily caught a glimpse right here on the San Lorenzo River of some pretty outstanding performances by the mating COMMON GOLDENEYES – carried out without benefit of celebrities and trophies. Or I guess you could say that the gleaming trophies will be the baby Goldeneyes, born sometime this summer in Canada or Alaska. Common Goldeneyes are known to bird lovers as having the most dramatic courtship displays among all waterfowl. And it’s all happening right here, right now, on the urban stretch of the San Lorenzo River!
I went out walking along the river last Sunday about 3 pm, poking along as usual, hoping to find some mating Goldeneyes which I had never seen in person. My first sighting was a glorious OSPREY circling high over the Water St. Bridge where I began my walk. I was pleased to have see 27 different species (click here) during the next two hours. But I hadn’t seen Goldeneyes, the Olympic performance I was most hoping to see. Then, just as I was about to leave the river, there they were, 15 of them– right under the Water St. Bridge. I was lucky. I learned only later that dawn and dusk are the best times of day to witness this event that takes place every year beginning about this time – in early or mid- march. There were 2 males and 9 females swimming peacefully off to one side while 2 other males and 2 other females held center stage about 30 feet from their non-active clan.
I have just been learning a little about the Goldeneyes for the last couple of weeks, and loved the wonderful photo that you posted last week, Jane. But this was my first experience of actually seeing them live in HD. Fortunately, ornithologists have been paying close attention to the complex and dramatic displays of this waterfowl for a long time! The detailed reports in Birds of North America, the largest compilation of recent research on birds, is always a huge help in figuring out the complexity of the mysterious behaviors of birds. The end-of-day lighting was not the greatest for taking photost, but the subject was stellar! I clicked away as fast as I could. Then I came home and tried to figure out what I had recorded. The following is my somewhat dubious efforts to put together my photos with all the information in BNA.
BNA identifies fourteen different postures or series of postures of the male Goldeneye, each with a separate name: head-throw, slow head-throw-kick, fast head-throw-kick, bowsprit, head-throw-bowsprit, nodding, masthead, ticking, head–flick, head-forward, head–up, head-up-pumping, head-back, and head back –bowsprit.. Since I only this year became aware of this annual show, I’m not at all sure what I’m seeing in each of the photos below. But I’m going to make a wild guess based on some descriptions I found in BNS- and maybe a reader will correct me if I get it wrong. The rest of my blog piece is all photos, with captions trying to guess at what I am seeing.
Well, we wander through life missing so much that is right under our noses. It took me 3 years to notice the mating Goldeneyes. What wonders still await?
Happy birding to all, and to all a good night!