After seeing many photo’s of local Wood Ducks we decided we needed to see one for ourselves. Two spots locally had recent sightings so we decided to visit both. I often play soccer at Twin Ponds Park but had never actually hiked around the the park’s namesake ponds. On a sunny Saturday morning we did just that, spotting mallards a noisy Northern Flicker and even a brief glimpse of a Green Heron that quickly flew away when spotted. But no wood ducks on the ponds, walking to the farthest southern side of the park however is a swampy wooded area which turns out to be the Wood Ducks favorite habitat. Here we found one female wood duck hanging out with a pair of Mallards. While this was an exciting find the male wood duck is the true stunner.
On to Juanita Bay Park to see if we could find more. Juanita Bay is not a huge park but has some nice trails and boardwalks to viewing points over the bay on Lake Washington. It was a cloudy day so the birds weren’t too active and we were worried we wouldn’t see much. However on the second boardwalk further to the west we found a pair of Wood Ducks right on the shore of the lake! Interestingly Wood Ducks prefer the wooded swampy areas and not open areas like this so maybe that is why they stuck to the shore nearest the trees. Also on this visit right after finding the Wood Ducks a river otter jumped into the water near the other viewing platform and began a swim across the bay towards Juanita Beach Park so keep your eyes out for otters as well!
The male Wood Duck is one of the most impressive looking water birds in the Pacific Northwest. You’d think they were named wood ducks because they look like carved wooden painted ducks but they are actually named based on their preferred habitat of swampy wooded areas. They like to perch on branches which I have not seen but will certainly keep my eye out for this as I don’t often see perched ducks! They nest in tree hollows in wooded areas and are the only North American duck that commonly has two broods per year.
Wood Ducks declined in the 19th century due to habitat loss, they were also hunted for food but more interestingly were hunted for their feathers used in the 19th century hat market in Europe. Luckily they have bounced back due to federal protection of wetland areas and the decline of killing birds for their feathers in hats! There is a very interesting and entertaining This American Life story about the industry of bird feathers used for fly fishing that mentions the use of bird feathers in hats as well – I encourage you to listen to The Feather Heist.
Things to Note:
- While Jaunita Bay and Twin Ponds Park both have very well maintained trails I still recommend you wear some good rubber boots for muddy days. I love these boots for just going in and out on a rainy day as they are small, light and easy to take on and off.
- Please check out our resources page to learn more about the equipment we used to find and take these shots!
- These shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens and a Sony 2x Teleconverter.