Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is It a Grebe or Not a Grebe? that is the question

Here is one of the more interesting birds taken over the weekend at Black Lake. This is a hen ruddy duck that took nearly twenty dollars' worth of heavy shot to reduce to possession. On Day Two of the hunt I hit it on the wing, and then Captain Eric, Co-Captain Cabin Boy, and I chased it all over Black Lake as it skillfully attempted to elude capture.

The moment of panic in the boat occurred when we had the bird twenty yards off the bow, at which point Keith says to me, "Hmmm. That could be a grebe." At which point I, stationed in the bow, quickly returned my firearm to the port arms position to await further, more positive, identification.

A South Dakota bird identification web site tells us:
A unique small duck, readily identifiable by the male's bluish bill, white face, and long, stiff, upright black tail (See photo at the right). A female is depicted on the photo at the bottom of the page. Ruddy Ducks are often reluctant to fly, and when disturbed, seems to prefer sinking below the surface and swimming away underwater like a grebe. They are nearly incapable of walking on land, with legs and feet set very far back on the body. Ruddy Ducks are generally very tame, making it susceptible to hunting pressures.
Little did Captain Cagey know how intuitively astute he was to the diminutive little duck's gestalt ( . . . I believe Ernie will like that sentence, don't you think?). As per South Dakota's description, the wounded and as yet unidentified little duck proceeded to play underwater hide and seek with us, while Captain Eric patiently following Cagey's "hurry up, slow down, cut the engine" instructions the whole time.

It was during this heroic naval battle that I emptied a box of Heavy Shot at the little sucker, until its susceptibility to hunting pressure caused it finally to succumb to the effects of "one pellet too many syndrome," whereupon it expired dead on the water.

We surfed over to the now lifeless form at which time I scooped it up out of the water and, handing it back to Mssrs. Cagey and Eric, I said somewhat hopefully, yet tentatively, "teal." Yeah right. It was back to shore and a consultation with the duck identification guides (we had two on board), and after a short interim period of deliberative reflection we arrived at the consensus judgement of "hen ruddy duck."

Pretty much a highlight of the weekend for me, and I think a relatively good time was had by all. My thanks to Captains Eric and Cagey for keeping us safe, legal, and within shooting distance of the bird that "when disturbed, seems to prefer sinking below the surface and swimming away underwater like a grebe."


Yeoman said...

A Ruddy Duck was the very first duck I ever shot. I was five years old, and shooting a .410 that was a hand me down from my father. He'd had the .410 as a kid, but it wasn't new when he acquired it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's what is known in old descriptive classification systems as a stiff tailed duck. I've seen plenty out west, and a few in Montezuma but never whilst hunting. Good for you! What a great trip.


Ernie said...

Keith, Wasn't it a female rudy duck that we all had trouble identifying out of the double black last year?

Anonymous said...


Thanks for making an addition to the blog so quickly after the trip. I thought you'd still be sleeping today!

Mr. Bill

KGT said...

Very nice write up, Jim. And thanks for NOT bypassing the BLOG so that other members of an ever growing community of hunting and outdoor enthusiasts can share in our passion, and so that we can refer back to these archives in the future. INCLUSION is GOOD.

KGT said...

Could be, ERNIE, but I don't recall that specifically. How was your weekend?

Anonymous said...

Thank God it was not a grebe.That was quite an expedition retrieving that ruddy.Duck Camp was a great time hope to see you there again next year.


Ernie said...

Cabin Boy, I am hearing bits and pieces about what sounds like it was a fun weekend on the darkest of lakes. What I am not hearing about is the witnessing of one of the prettiest of weekends that we have had all year so far. Did anyone notice how blessed we were with warm sunny skies without a trace of wind blowing anywheres? How about the way the sun made the trees explode with floral beauty as it first crested above the water. It almost looked like the trees were exploding into a ball of fire. The moon, it was noticed, also highlighted the shimmering beauty of the waters surface in the mild breeze that took place as the day turned to night. If you read closly between my words you will find subtle hints as to how the weekend went for us and what we saw in the skies over the St. Lawrence river.