Reader Pete Moulton has, after my usual begging and pleading, sent me some of his lovely bird photos. The notes below are his:
Here are a few images you might like to try out on your readers. The winter ducks are only just arriving in Arizona, probably because of mild weather north of us, but the numbers and variety are improving.Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). A drake from last weekend. A lot of the shovelers are still molting, but this guy’s nearly finished, and he shows why I consider the Northern Shoveler to be our most underappreciated duck. They’re really quite beautiful.
Drake Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) from a couple of weeks ago. He’s standing on a submerged mudflat, which is why so much of him is visible. Teal are generally pretty shy in my experience, and this is a heavier crop than I usually like. He’s pretty, though.
Drake Green-winged Teal (Anas [crecca] carolinensis). Eurasian readers will notice how similar he is to their Common Teal (A. crecca), and in fact the American Ornithologists’ Union Checklist Committee considers the two forms conspecific, but they’re distant enough genetically that most international organizations treat them as separate species.
Hen Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), the Nearctic analogue of the Eurasian Tufted Duck (A. fuligula). About twenty years ago a drake Tufted Duck spent five consecutive winters at a golf course in Mesa, where he routinely consorted with the Ring-necked Ducks, and they seemed to accept him as a rather odd Ring-neck. The last time I saw him he’d taken up with a hen Ring-neck, and the two flew off together.
Snowy Egret, Egretta thula:
And finally a songbird for those who prefer them. This is a male Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus). Yes, it looks like a Northern Cardinal (C. cardinalis), and in fact the locals often call them ‘Gray Cardinals.’ or Desert Cardinals.’ Both Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxias occur in this area, and the two do hybridize fairly often. The Pyrrhuloxia is a southwestern specialty, occurring in arid brushlands from west Texas to Arizona, and birders often visit the Desert Southwest from great distances to see them.