1 March 2015
On a day when the temperature was forecast to get up to around minus 4°C, positively balmy for southern Ontario recently, Miriam and I decided to drive down to Springbank Park in London to see a Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus which had been seen there the previous day by our good friend Charlotte Moore.
Alas, the duck was nowhere to be found despite considerable searching, and checking with several local birders and photographers, no one else had seen it either. However there was lots to hold our attention with a wide variety of interesting waterfowl, and male Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis were in full song, and several Mallards Anas platyrychos were in high mating mode. Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, fueled by surging hormones, were engaged in that very entertaining head toss routine which occurs when spring is in the air.
Perhaps most interesting of all, however, was a pure Pekin Duck Anas platyrynchos domestica (sometimes known as a Long Island Duck) in a flock of Mallards.
This duck has been selectively bred to achieve its pure white form and far from being just a source of protein for the human diet, it has become popular as a household pet. It imprints on people and can be trained not to mess up a house and provides an excellent alarm service if anything untoward or unfamiliar happens at the home. People even take them on car trips and since the bird is imprinted onto its human "parents" it happily walks alongside them without straying.
This one has obviously somehow become separated from its human family and has readily adapted to life with its wild cousins.
The Staghorn Sumachs Rhus typhina looked particularly nice with an icing sugar topping of snow.
On the way home we dropped down to Grass Lake and Bill Read and Ross Dickson were there banding Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis and Horned Larks Eremophila alpestris.
Bill was happy to show us the defining characteristics of a second year male.
The birds readily enter the cage which is baited with corn and Bill and Ross are kept very busy.
We didn't see the Harlequin Duck, but we had an interesting and entertaining day regardless. That, my friends, is the nature of birding.