My Life’s Birds: #123-124
March 12, 1994 – Lake Springfield, Mo – In March, the first signs of Spring’s return become apparent. For birders, it’s an exciting time. For a new birder, it’s practically torture waiting for the season that your more experienced friends speak about with such reverence and impatience. The time when those colorful birds, heretofore only gazed at in rapt interest, begin their long journey through the woods near my own house.
The true jewels of spring are still weeks away, but the vanguards of the rush begin to show up as waterfowl stopping by local lakes on their way to the prairie potholes of the northern Great Plains. Lakes like Lake Springfield, that shallow marshy reservoir that consistently provided fairly decent birds, the most common of which on this day were the Blue-winged Teals; small common ducks with that familiar half moon mask.
The thing about Blue-wings is that they’re almost never alone. Their most common partners seem to be Northern Shovelers, those ducks that are probably the most easy of the family to distinguish even at a distance in bad light. The bill, that enormous bill is so prominent that even a beginning birder, whose prior experience with the species was exclusively in paintings and text, can recognize it immediately. And at Lake Springfield, on the far back end of the lake, the two new species, intermingling with previously seen Mallards, Wigeon, and Canada Geese, were appreciated as a sign that that first spring as a birder was around the corner, along with the promise of many many new birds.