Photo of the Week - June 30, 2011

Photo Composite
Male Wood Duck in eclipse plumage
Aix sponsa

McLane Creek Nature Trail
Olympia, WA
June 30, 2011

If this week's photo outing were Sesame Street, it would have been sponsored by the letter "W". I spent the better part of a day at McLane Creek Nature Trail in Olympia observing Wood duck families, warblers (Common Yellowthroat and Wilson's), Willow flycatchers, and water creatures (including newts).

The Wood ducks are a particular joy to see. At least seven juvenile Wood ducks can be seen exploring the pond. They are old enough to investigate the beaver pond on their own, although they are not able to fly yet. Two female and two male Wood ducks can also be seen on the pond.
Juvenile Wood Duck
This individual is not able to fly yet.

An interesting feature of birds in general and ducks in particular is eclipse plumage. The transformation takes place when drakes shed their body feathers after mating. The bright plumage necessary to attract a mate is no longer needed, so the males replace their feathers with a muted color scheme. Males lose their iridescent green head and bold stripes. However, their distinctive red eyes and bill are still present. Wood ducks can have two broods per year and so eclipse plumage will not appear until summertime.  
Male Wood duck in eclipse plumage

Female Wood Duck

McLane Creek Nature Trail is part of Capitol Forest in Olympia, managed by Washington State's Department of Natural Resources. It is a popular hiking location in all seasons with its diversity of plant and animal life. In the Spring, hundreds of people come to see the rough skinned newts swimming in the pond. As summer arrives, sounds of Red Winged Blackbirds and Warblers fill the air near the ponds as Swainson's Thrushes make a chorus of music in the surrounding woods. Fall brings an amazing crush of spawning salmon to the creek. Winter is time to enjoy native birds, including Spotted Towhees and Chickadees as they forage amongst the old growth stumps of century-old logging operations.

McLane Creek Nature Trail is easy for all ages and includes some wheelchair accessible paths.

Get a copy of the McLane Creek trail map here