Saturday, 15 November 2014

Waterfowl and Other Water Birds Part 1

Lake Ontario
Toronto, ON
13/14 November 2014

     The Great Lakes are wonderful refuges for over-wintering waterfowl and by early November numbers start to build. By the middle of next month there will be huge rafts of some species and careful scanning often reveals unexpected rarities.
     Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus is surely one of the most delightful little ducks one could ever hope to see; the male especially is a picture of elegance and style, one of the Jim Dandies of the world.

     Several pairs were present in sheltered bays and were having great success feeding. 

     American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus have returned and they were
harassing the Hooded Mergansers, trying to snatch fish from their bills as they returned to the surface from their dives. Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis joined in this piracy too, but I only witnessed one successful theft by a Herring Gull which looked big enough to have swallowed the female merganser from which it snatched the fish!

     It was a surprise to see this Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca still present at a date when one would have expected them to have departed, and it seemed bent on staying close to a group of Hooded Mergansers paddling around in shallow water. Perhaps the ducks were stirring up invertebrates which became an easy meal for the shorebird.

     Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis seem to suddenly show up overnight, one day there is nary a one and suddenly they seem to be everywhere. If you can approach a group of them close to shore the chattering they make is absolutely delightful.

     There's more to come in Part 2 of Waterfowl and Other Water Birds.


  1. beautiful shot of the Hood Mergansers and the Long tailed ducks

  2. Great post David,I think your Hooded Merganser is a Star,superb images,also love the Greater Yellowlegs.
    Top birds on show.

  3. The Buffleheads are truly wonderful. Those males look like their partners gave them the once over and then a brush up before sending them out to play - sounds familiar?.

    I'm really jealous of your wintering wildfowl like Hoodies and Long-tails.

    The average recovery rate of a ringee bird is 1%. Obviously much better for a large bird like a swan and lower for small passerines or those less likely to be found.

    There are some of our own local recoveries on my blog from months gone by but a summary of the whole scheme can be found online by county, species etc at

  4. Don't think I've ever seen a Long-tailed Duck!

  5. Hi David.
    Just like to answer your ref the Red Backed Shrike,it's very unusual for this time of year.

  6. I think Hooded Mergansers are one of the most striking ducks, although for subtle beauty it's hard to go past male Northern Pintails. I hope the Mergansers stay around and you are able to share more of them.

  7. These are gorgeous creatures ! And your shots are amazing as always !
    Have a nice Sunday !

  8. The male Hooded Merganser is, indeed, a very handsome duck. For me, however, it is beaten by the drake Smew.

    In an earlier post, you asked about Red-backed Shrike. I saw my first in UK in September this year - at a place where they've had a resident drake Hooded Merganser for a few years now (I understand that there's still speculation as to where the merganser came from).

    Best wishes from a cold, damp and misty UK (but we did get a flock of over 30 Goldfinch in the garden this morning! - a record for us) - - - - Richard

    P.S. Sorry, but still no sign of the Hedgehogs - I'm not giving up on them, however.

    1. The one and only Smew I have ever seen was a juvenile male, not yet in his black-and-white finery, that spent three or four days in Oshawa harbour a couple of years ago. It certainly is a very attractive duck.

  9. This Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus I have never seen themselves. I do not think see this in the Netherlands. A wonderful series of these waterfowl David:-)