Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Duck Max!

John James Audubon's depiction of the Canvasback

The title of this painting is "A Good Day". Well, not for everyone, clearly.

Aside from dogs, our other abiding outdoor passion is observing wild animals, especially birds. Fort Washington Park isn't the best place in the city for variety (you'd be surprised to know just how good the birding can be in Gotham), but being right on the Hudson River, you can't help but have some interesting sightings down there sometimes, as I'm sure John James Audubon himself must have had, back when his farmhouse was situated right along this very stretch of waterfront.

There's been two drake Canvasbacks hanging out on the river there lately, a bit south of the tennis courts. Among the most beautiful of our native ducks--also supposed to be just about the tastiest, at least when they've been eating wild celery, which they dive under the water to obtain (being a vegetarian, I can't personally vouch for their palatability). This is a species in decline in many areas, including our own, so it's great to see these two.

Hopefully they'll find plenty of females later in the season and propagate madly. Like most drakes, they're only after one thing, with as many hens as possible, and play no role in incubating the eggs, defending the nest, or raising the young. Hey, no cracks--you saw March of the Penguins. And read up on Phalaropes sometime. Animals just do whatever works best for the survival of their genes, resulting in an almost infinite variety of domestic arrangements--something to tick off pretty much any doctrinaire human, regardless of beliefs.

Anyway, they were pretty close to shore when I snapped these pictures--they seemed mildly concerned by my attentions (given the type of interest people have usually shown in their species, you can hardly blame them), and swum a bit further out, but weren't too bothered. Guess they've figured out there's no hunting here. Max didn't seem to worry them at all. Dogs are no threat to ducks on the river--not unless there's a shotgun in the mix. I often see Mallards going about their business casually, while dogs paddle in the river a short distance away from them.

Anyway, I got Max to sit, and snapped away--you can just barely make out two little white blobs on the water.

Using the full 12x optical zoom on my camera, I got some halfway decent shots--you can click on the pictures to enlarge them--no, I did not use a flash, their eyes are supposed to be red. Helps them see underwater.

Max, best as I could tell, either didn't know the ducks were there, or simply wasn't interested.

It's probably just a coincidence he's licking his chops in this picture.

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