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.