Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

First Fall Colors

As of today most tree leaves near Union Bay are still green, at least for a few more hours. On the other hand male mallards are starting to show their fall colors. For the last month they have been hiding in plain sight. In preparation for fall mating and a new year they have been growing a new set of feathers. Unable to fly properly with half grown feathers the males put on a temporary eclipse plumage that makes them look a lot like females. (Click Here, to see the Cornell explanation.) Finally the males are starting to show off their fall colors.

In the previous photo the male in the water is not quite as far along as the bird on the log. You can still see a few of the light brown feathers sprinkled about his head and neck.

In the next photo the male in back still has a mostly brown neck.
It may seem odd but it is actually the back half of the closer bird that attracts my attention. The new black, brown and white feathers are so crisp and clean. (Clearly, this is the only blog on birds that will point out a beautiful bird butt.)

Here is a male from a couple of weeks ago when he was just starting to come out of hiding.

Here is a photo from a few days earlier. I believe this is a male in eclipse plumage.

Yesterday one of the males in full fall plumage approached a female and did his head bobbing dance. She responded in kind. They proceeded to immediately consummate their relationship. A moment later a male with only partial fall coloring approached the same female. She didn't just reject him, she chased him away. So it would seem we have the female mallards to thank for the beauty of the male mallards mating plumage.

Although the females do not have the beautiful green head they do have the royal purple speculum. (Some call these feathers blue but on Union Bay near Husky Stadium they are most definitely, purple.)
The speculum is part of the trailing wing feathers closest to the body. These feathers are called the secondaries while the primaries are the trailing feathers closer to the wing tips. These clean and pristine feathers are among the first fall colors on Union Bay.

For those who had their hearts set on seeing fall leaves here is a consolation photo.
This plant clearly turned color before almost every other plant in the Arboretum. With the red berries as well as the leaves it is beautiful. It can been seen on the right hand side of the southern bridge to Foster Island. Having never noticed this plant in the wild the initial thought was that this must be an introduced plant from some place further south. Imagine the surprise when the Master Gardener at the Arboretum explained that this is a native plant. For those wanting to encourage native birds in their yards this might be a wonderful choice.

If you would like to know the name of this mystery plant, Click Here.

Speaking of the color red it seems the pileated woodpeckers are out and about the park a lot more lately. Here is a male spotted near Arboretum Creek.

Below is a female seen near the stone bridge. (This is the bridge that consistently decapitates trucks trying to take a short cut through the Arboretum.)
Maybe, with the job of feeding and training the young birds completed, the parents have the freedom to travel again, being empty nesters and all.

It seems like fall is mushroom season too. 

 The spiders are out and about in fall numbers as well.

Did you notice the "eyes" on this spiders back?

Note: Being unable to identify the mushrooms or the spiders I would love your recommendations on books or websites that you believe would be most helpful.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


PS: Here is one last photo from a couple of weeks ago.
It makes one wonder how long until the bees call it quits for the winter.