|Ruddy Duck in Schuylkill River at Flat Rock Dam. Watercolor Sketch by Ken Januski.|
With temperatures predicted to drop 40 degrees overnight, from 62 to 22, I decided I ought to take one more look on the Schuylkill River to see if any new waterfowl were there. My thought was that they might soon be departing. On the other hand I could be wrong and the cold snap might convince them that they should linger. It can only be worse, with more frozen water, farther north.
Right off I saw a number of Common Mergansers. But rarer birds, like Red-breasted Mergansers or more Red-necked Grebes didn't make an appearance. That was fine though. With the warmer weather of last few days I also knew that I might find some new, smaller migrants.
After walking over a mile along the Manayunk Canal and then back I saw the tiniest shape in the Schuylkill along the shore, right at Flat Rock Dam.
If I didn't know better I'd say Rubber Ducky. It was a Ruddy Duck, seemingly the smallest and cutest duck, though I'm not sure that it's the smallest. Green-winged Teal would have to be in the running but I never see it at my feet as with this duck. So it's hard to judge its size in comparison to the Ruddy Duck. But I believe it's actually smaller.
I did a ball point pen field sketch and then took some photos. At one point two Mallards approached the duck, intimidation on their mind I'm sure. No problem for a diving duck. You just dive and reappear elsewhere. By the time the Ruddy Duck was back up the Mallards had lost interest.
This small watercolor sketch in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook has more feather detail than I normally do, though it's still done impressionistically. Part of the reason for that is that this duck might be called dull and non-descript by some. It's color variation is subtle. I tried to get some of that in the portrait by putting a little more detail into the feathers.
Soon all the ducks will be gone though I think, except for Mallards and Wood Duck. Then it will be on to truly tiny birds, that sure do not sit still like the recent waterfowl.