Sunday, May 1, 2011

Buffleheads: Late March Spring Migration through Northern Illinois

A Bufflhead in its winter grounds, Phoenix, IL;  12/26/09.
Bufflheads are fun to watch, but for me, extremely hard to photograph. I have taken many pictures of Buffleheads over the past year, but have never been happy with any of them. Because the snow white back of its head contrasts drastically to its dark reddish - green face, crown and neck, my camera has a hard time determining the correct exposure.  If I try to compensate for the bright white patch at the back of the head, I lose the beautiful irridescent colors on the rest of the head. If I try to expose for the colors, then the white patch and body looks like a fireball and is way over exposed (Above). Also they are a frenetic diving bird, disappearing under the water and reappearing on the opposite side of the lake very quickly.

A pair of Buffleheads at Regents Park, London, England, UK; 4/10/10.
The first time I saw a Bufflehead was a couple of years ago during winter while I was visiting Arizona (Top) and was fascinated with them. Then I saw a few a year ago while spending a week in London (Above). But this Spring starting in mid to late March, they have been migrating through Northern Illinois in small to large flocks (known as a "brace", "flush", "paddling", "raft", and "team"). They have been present in Rock Cut State Park (Three bottom pics) for almost month. Plus I have seen them at Nygren Wetlands Preserve (Rockton), at North Pond (Chicago's Lincoln Park), and on the Mississippi River on the Illinois / Iowa border. Just last week I saw a brace of Buffleheads at Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin (Below). Their white body contrasts with their dark head, which depending on how the light hits it, they look black, or the forehead looks green, while the neck has a reddish irridescence to it. Then sometimes the red and green tints appear just the opposite.

A Pair of Buffleheads at Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, WI; 4/24/2011.

Two male Buffleheads while fighting over the rights to a female, show off
their black and white markings, Rock Cut State Park, Rockford, IL; 3/26/11.
Buffleheads spend their summers exclusively in Canada and Alaska, while in winter they can be found throughout the Southern half of the U.S. and will spread north to the southern edges of the Great Lakes (Save Superior) and along both the Atlantic Seaboard and Pacific Coast and south into Mexico and Central America.
A Bufflhead sticking its landing for a perfect"10" in Pierce lake,
Rock Cut State Park; 3/27/11.

A Bufflhead on takeoff in Pierce lake, Rock Cut State Park; 3/27/11.

1 comment:

~Val said...

I didn't know you had so many bufflehead photos. I like the takeoff shot at the bottom - it's like he's skipping rocks...