Monday, February 07, 2005

Hooded Mergansers

Many thanks to Randy Emmitt of RLEPhoto for giving me permission to use his photo of a hooded merganser. His site has lots of great butterfly and dragonfly pictures too.

Mergansers, we got 'em! This is one of my favorite ducks, and luckily for us they love farm ponds.

They are very wary birds, and so far all my photo attempts have ended up in fuzzy frustration because mergansers spook so easily.

I guess I could set up a blind, go out before daybreak, and try to guess which pond they'll land in IF they come that morning, but... nah.

Randy told me that he was able to get this picture at a pond where the ducks were used to people feeding them. I don't think that's normal behavior for mergansers, but every now and then we have also found some supposedly non-feedable bird lining up for handouts with all the other mallards, Canada geese, etc.

When they are feeling insecure or threatened, Mergansers' crests stand up, as on the male at left. The brown-colored female on the right is not as concerned (her crest is fairly flat).

Mergansers dive completely underwater to catch fish. They are only in Alabama in the winter, and breed mostly in the northern US and Canada.

We rarely see them travel alone. Last winter we saw several groups of up to 10 or so, but this year they have come mostly in twos and threes. Sometimes two males and one female, sometimes the other way around.


Anonymous said...

I'm envious! It's so interesting to see the wildlife on and around a homestead in another part of the country, it's so different from here.

Those ducks almost don't look real, their markings are so vibrant.


Magazine Man said...

Wow. We have very pedestrian waterfowl in these parts. i love your blog! My family ran a farm for generations in rural New England , which I suspect is different from your neck of the woods, but also the same in a lot of ways. Thanks for your comments over at my blog. You're always welcome! --MM

Forms said...

In the springtime, on calmer shores, I used to feed these feathered creatures with my Grandparents. They would ask me, a young boy at the time, what I wanted to do that particular morning (or sometimes it was the afternoon). And I would respond by saying "I would like to feed the ducks".

So we would feed the ducks, as they would swim in and out of the harbour. We would use the saved bread crumbs of months prior, especially the end pieces of a loaf of wholewheat bread (that is the their preferred flavour). The ducks would sing their praises in a noisy symphony of quacks (excuse the onomatopoeia). They truly enjoyed that bread.

Months passed and winter rolled into the sandy shores near the harbour. The three of us walked along the icy beach gripping a bag of bread crumbs, but the birds were gone. We never fed the ducks wholewheat bread again...

Rurality said...

Sarah, I really love the wildlife here. Mostly we just see evidence of animals having been here, rather than the animal itself... but in the case of birds we've been lucky to see some nice ones.

Thanks MM! I don't know where you are, but with birds (as with most things I guess), you really just have to know where to look. Cool ones are everywhere. And having good binoculars helps too. Sometimes something that looks nondescipt from a distance will be really gorgeous up close.

Hi Forms, nice verbal picture. Canada winters are too cold for most ducks I guess, which is why they come down here. They'll leave us soon though.