Thursday, June 14, 2012

Battle of the Show-Stoppers

As you saw in our previous post, we started off our day of birding at the Savannah Wildlife Refuge on a good foot. And the day got even better. On any other birding trip, we would have been happy to have just one of the awesome encounters we had that day. 



Part of the reason we came by the wildlife refuge on this day was to find a group of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that were recently reported there. It seems as those these ducks have started moving more northward to breed as numbers in Florida have been increasing. These are some of the cutest ducks, too. They not only look adorable with their big eyes and bright coral-orange bills, but they make the cutest whistling sound.

We first saw a few pairs flying by, then we hit the mother load when we stumbled upon a big group in a pond along the drive. And then we learned not to be fooled by their cuteness. I've heard of cock fights, and I've seen some human chicken fights, but we had never seen a duck fight!




As we watched these ducks, we soon saw that this pond may not be big enough for everyone. One group of ducks started whistling defensively at another group (see the 2nd photo in this post). And then, what I assume to be two males, started going at it! Now THESE guys put on quite a show, but one of aggression. This battle lasted only a few minutes, yet it was epic as these two ducks flapped wildly and attacked each other, sometimes going several feet above the water. Eventually the males parted ways as one group moved over a more reasonable distance away from the other group. 






As we moved along the wildlife drive, we got a little break from all the excitement as we came across a reedy edge of a pond with some more mellow birds. In one area, we saw two Red-Winged Blackbird fledglings who were flitting about on the reeds awaiting their parents to bring breakfast. And then down a little ways, we saw some birds that were so mellow, in fact, that I could almost hear Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On." We had stumbled upon two Purple Gallinules who were displaying some intimate courtship behaviors. I didn't get any pictures of the ordeal, but there was some interesting postures and preening going on. Our friend who was birding with us that day later found this article that discusses and illustrates the exact behaviors we saw.




And just as the rain started to sprinkle down, we got one final hurrah out of this birding trip. As a large raptor came zooming towards us followed by a small bird chasing after it, I yelled out, "Swallowed-tailed Kite! Swallow-tailed Kite!" Here came this large, gorgeous bird swooping right over our heads as it was being run off by a small blackbird that didn't like the looks of it being close by to its nesting area.



This is probably the most gorgeous raptor, or even bird, we've ever seen. This wasn't our first sighting, but definitely our best. There is no way anyone cannot be taken aback by this breathtaking bird with its elegant, white body, long black and white wings, and of course, that amazing forked tail. This kite, even when being chased, flys with such grace and poise. I only wish the lighting had been better, but then I may not have gotten that final eerily beautiful silhouette shot.

9 comments:

  1. wow. FABULOUS!! =) I also swoon when I see white-tailed (or black-shouldered, whatever) kites. GORgeous and have the sweetest call. And freaky, giant red eyes. Thanks so much for sharing. Too cool.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, kites send me soaring! =) And yes, those eyes are kinda freaky. They're so haunting.

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  2. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are enthralling! They look so velvety and so clean-cut, really interesting birds even before they start calling. Nice action shots there too, glad nobody got hurt in the middle of that scrum. On this nature drive, it must be like Jurassic Park eh? You're not supposed to get out of the cars because a T-Rex, or Whistling Duck, might get you.

    I am very envious of your Kite! Both the bird and, probably, and other kites you all happen to have. The Swallow-tailed is magnificent--too beautiful and supremely built to need terra firma.

    Thanks for following up Ranger Leong-Kee

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    1. Velvety is a good description for them. And those Whistling Ducks are pretty comprable to T-Rexes... ;-)

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  3. Great action shots on those whistling ducks. We usually see them sleeping.

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    1. Thanks, Dina! When we lived in South Florida, we would see them ALL over this manmade wetland there. There were tons of them, and they were all content and happy as can be, but they had a huge area to spread around and lots of food sources. I guess this area was not as big to keep everyone happy.

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  4. Magnificent photography!
    Your Black-bellied Whistling Ducks fighting are just extraordinary!
    I didn't know ducks could fight that much!
    An amazing reportage!!
    Your blog presentation also is very appealing!
    I will certainly be back... :)
    Cheers Maureen!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Noushka! I didn't know ducks could fight that much either. It was quite a sight. And I'm glad you'll be a returning visitor =) Cheers!

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