My previous two posts regarded some of the ducks found at Ballard Park in Tupelo, MS- the Crested Duck and the Muscovy Duck. Ballard Park is also host to another duck- the domestic Mallard. Other birds, like the Barn Swallow, are commonly seen at the park as well.
Ballard Park includes a 3 acre lake, 1 amphitheater, 2 pavilions, 1 stage, 3 restroom facilities, skate park, disc golf course, 2 playgrounds, 1.3 mile trail, life trail system, .25 mile track, 1 maintenance building, 20 picnic tables, 2 sand volleyball courts, Oren Dunn Museum, Parks and Recreation Administrative Office, 16 lighted multi-purpose fields, and 1 athletic operation center. Yes, it's a fairly good sized park, but I only visited a portion of it- the portion which included the lake.
Hubby and I first entered the west side of the park, which includes a playground area for children. The first critters we saw scurrying about were some busy squirrels. Since it was still early morning, they were full of energy. I watched them chase each other around tree trunks then up and down limbs in the tree tops.
There were several Muscovy ducks near the picnic tables at the edge of the lake. As a matter of fact, a couple of them were quite comfortable as they sat and walked along the picnic tables. I posted photos of them in my previous post here.
As we approached the south end of the lake, Hubby and I observed a small group of female domestic Mallard ducks. I love the color and pattern of their feathers, especially the young female. They stood quietly as we walked near and I snapped a few shots of them. They're accustomed to public attention and probably expected a handful of duck feed in return for the photo favors ;)
The east side of the lake was prettier, with more shade trees and walking paths. One of the paths led to a shady area where several ducks rested and a Graylag goose stood quietly near them. The goose watched us closely as we slowly walked by. I stopped briefly to capture a few stills and I thought of how peaceful it seemed in this little spot, away from the main path. It would be a nice place to lay out a blanket and read a good book...or take a quiet nap.
Around the next bend in the walking path was another group of Muscovy ducks. This was a rather large group of black and white Muscovies which briefly entertained me with their strange head bobbing behavior. There were a couple of mating pairs in this group and they didn't mind our presence a bit.
As we approached the gazebo at the edge of the lake, I spotted something moving inside it. Upon closer observation, the moving object proved to be a Barn Swallow- not one, but two of them, flying around their nest which was located under the gazebo's wooden eave. I had never seen Barn Swallows before, so it was a pretty exciting moment for me! I oohhhhed and awwwed as I captured a couple shots of them before they flew away. It wasn't the best circumstances for good photos because of the shade and location of the nest under the eave. The swallows perched upon nails which extended from the wood frame near their nest, how convenient!
Just beyond the gazebo, another, yet small group of ducks were hanging out near the edge of the lake. It was in this group that I spotted the Crested duck. I posted photos of it two days ago- they can be seen here. It appears the first duck in the photo below has a small, incomplete crest (the crest sizes vary with these ducks).
Close to the southeastern portion of the walking trail, I stalled a few moments to admire the beautiful plumage of this domestic Mallard. The sunlight perfectly illuminated his emerald green headgear. This was one of only a few male domestic Mallards that were observed in the park that day- they were definitely outnumbered by females.
My hubby grabbed my attention and told me to look under the small covered walkway crossing the lake, just south of where we stood. Following his direction, I then saw at least a dozen Barn Swallows perched along the edge of a horizontal wooden beam, near the inside top of the cover. Wow! I thought. Now that would make a great photo!
Unfortunately, as I eased toward the covered walkway, the swallows flew away. I waited several minutes for their return, but it didn't happen. Disappointment settled in for a fleeting moment. I could see tiny pieces of their nests over the top of the wooden beam...apparently there were several swallow nests there. I had no idea that birds would nest so close together.
While I waited for the return of the swallows, I watched a pair of House Sparrows peck on particles in the grass and hop along the concrete walkway, looking for food. The male sparrow grabbed a white feather then flew off... he probably tucked the feather into a nest shared with his mate.
My hubby pointed out the small fish on the waters edge so I took a look. There were literally scores of fish in the murky water near the bank. I don't know much about fish, but he and my son said these are goggle eye bream...so for now I am taking their word for it. I can bet that they've made good snacks for several local birds.
A pretty brown and white domestic duck lay in the grass just on the other side of the covered walkway. After a few photos, the duck grew tired of my presence and took off into the water. Even better...I snapped a few photos of him paddling around and preening in the lake water.
I was happy with our little adventure through Ballard Park. I was given the opportunity to see and photograph birds new to me- the Crested duck, the Muscovy ducks, a Graylag goose, Barn Swallows, and House Sparrows. Pretty productive for slightly over an hour of my time ;)