by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"A Bill For What?"

Northern Shoveler

This weekend I found myself happily driving south on I-15. I was on a field trip with great friends who love ‘birding’. The desert was alive with desert flowers, and we found it hard not to pull over and take pictures, or to see what was just beyond the next rolling hill. But, we were on our way to the Henderson Ponds in Nevada. Henderson Ponds caters to birds, which are looking for a sanctuary to stop off during migration. When we arrived at the ponds, we found a wonderful staff of Wildlife Biologists at the wildlife station ready and willing to prepare us for a ‘super birding experience’.

        Nine ponds to walk around, and a full day ahead of us. Was this heaven? Even before I saw the ponds, I whipped out my camera and started taking pictures of the green trees with zillions of yellow flowers surrounding the parking lot. The air was filled with bird songs. So many were singing that it was like a great choir of soloists trying to outdo each other. At the ponds, one of the most colorful birds there in abundance was the Northern Shoveler.

northern shoveler        The Northern Shoveler is a type of waterfowl that has done well with the expansion of man’s civilization. This colorful bird has a distinctive bill that looks like a shovel. But rather than digging in the dirt, this distinctive bill strains organisms out of the water for food. Shovelers thrive in the settling ponds of sewage treatment plants, marshy shallow lakes, and any rich water environment. The food crops that man raises requires the use of fertilization of the soil. Fertilizers that are not used by the plants, run off into the waterways which cause a bloom of the small water plants that Shovelers love to eat. Many Shovelers will work as a team in the water, swimming in circles, creating whirlpools which sweep their food supply up off the bottom of the ponds so they can then harvest it with their specialized bill.

        The public is welcome to come along on the Red Cliffs Audubon Field trips. You can learn to identify any of those 350 bird species that come through our area. For more information about birds or Henderson Ponds call 435 673-0996. Marilyn Davis is the artist this week.

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