Readers’ wildlife photos

December 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have our Sunday aliquot of photos by biologist John Avise, and today’s subject is dear to my heart. John’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

Lake Merritt Ducks

Last week, I flew north to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Oakland, CA.  Near the center of that city is Lake Merritt, an estuarine jewel that has the distinction of being the United States’s first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870.  I took the opportunity to repeatedly hike the lake’s 4-mile circumference, and here are some photographs I took of the ducks I encountered.  Several of these species (notably the Canvasback, Greater Scaup, and the Goldeneyes) are quite rare near my home in Southern California, so I was especially happy to
find them on this trip to a more northern part of the state.  [I hope I’ve identified the scaups correctly; the Lesser and Greater can be very difficult to distinguish!].

Part of Lake Merritt in its urban setting:

Ruddy Duck drake (Oxyura jamaicensis):

Ruddy Duck hen:

Bufflehead drake (Bucephala albeola):

Bufflehead hen:

Canvasback drake (Aythya valisineria):

Canvasback head portrait:

Canvasback hen:

Greater Scaup drake (Aythya marila):

Lesser Scaup drake (Aythya affinis):

Common Goldeneye drake (Bucephala clangula):

Another Common Goldeneye drake:

Common Goldeneye hen:

Common Goldeneye pair:

Barrow’s Goldeneye drake (Bucephala islandica):

Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

Another Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

 Mallard pair (Anas platyrhynchos):

5 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. When I was an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara learning how to identify birds, I was taught that one could use a mnemonic for distinguishing Greater from Lesser Scaup from the tinge of the iridescent head: “Green” for “Greater” and, well, I guess that meant that “Purple,” um, wasn’t Greater. It seems to work for your photos, anyway, which are all fabulous as always.

  2. I live across the bay from Oakland and have visited Lake Merritt several times, but I didn’t realize it had such a variety of waterfowl. Thank you for these pictures Mr. Avise.

  3. Beautiful shots, especially the canvasback, which I have always found to be so ‘regal’. But just to clarify, Merritt Lake was not the first NWR, the first was Pelican Island, which is now part of Merritt Island NWR, both of which are in Florida. For more information, see the following sites if you are interested:

    https://www.fws.gov/refuge/pelican_island/about/history.html

    https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Region_4/NWRS/Zone_2/Everglades_Headwaters_Complex/Pelican_Island/Images/History/XX%20The%20First%20Refuge%20is%20born.pdf

    1. Thanks for the comment. According to Wikipedia, Lake Merritt was the nation’s first “official wildlife refuge”, which I guess may be different from the nation’s first “NWR”. I’ve also been to Pelican Island and Merritt Island in Florida, and love them as well. Indeed, NWFs across the country are always at the top of my list for favored places to visit for wildlife.

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