This post started at the National Gallery in London, of all places. I went to a splendid Winslow Homer retrospective, mainly landscapes, and suddenly there was this rather odd but striking painting of two Goldeneye ducks, one already shot and falling into the waves, and one escaping in alarm.
I prefer mine alive. These charming ducks live in Maine most of the year, though some head further north to breed. The ones in the paintings are male, with a white cheek patch and that golden eye. Here is my photo of a live version:
They find open bits of water when there is still ice on the ponds. These pictures were taken on a river in January. The females are brownish, as usual:
The female in front is a Barrow’s Goldeneye and the male and other female are Common Goldeneyes. They have bright orange feet, as you can see in the foreground below:
They have a strange courtship ritual. Look at the two photos below. In the top photo, the male stretches his neck up and out, (second from left), and then arches it right back (top left). In the second photo there is a better angled shot of him curling his neck backwards. I wish I had taken a video, but these stills give you the idea:
Here is a video I found online:
When they spread their wings, a large white patch appears:
You can tell it is a Barrow’s Goldeneye by counting the six white wing feathers. Common Goldeneyes have seven or eight.
PS Ian Fleming, author of the 007 books, named his house in Jamaica Goldeneye. Now it is a luxury resort. Here is its history: