Signs of Spring — maybe

Finally got back to walking on the canal this morning. Ice and snow kept me off for a few weeks. In addition to Canaga Geese and Mallard couples, I spotted a single interesting duck. Wasn’t certain of an identification, so I got out my Stokes Field Guide to Birds when I got home.

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It was was a female Common Merganser. My notes recorded sightings in the late 1990s in Yardley.

There have been a lot of ducks on the river the past few days. Despite the scope and new Nikon binoculars, identification form the house was uncertain. So I walked down to the river’s edge and was pleased toidentify a group of male and female Ring Necked Ducks and Buffleheads.

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No question about the identifications. The male Ring Necked had white/light gray sides, black head and back, white band on bill and yellow-orange eye. The female was gray-brown with a white ring on the bill. Their crowns form a bit of a point. According to Stokes they feed on tubers, leaves, seeds and insects. Courtship peaks during Spring migration. I didn’t notice any but copulation is preceded by bill dipping. It was interesting to watch them gather close to a fallen tree but then be swept down river a bit by the swift current.

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The Buffleheads were furthur out in the channel. Very easy to identify the males who have a large white patch at the back of the head. As reported they were diving, looking for small fish, mollusks, snails or acquatic insects. Seems their courtship begins in January accompanied with a high level of aggression. Not of that today.

The Ring Necked Ducks were totally a new sighting for me. A lifetime bird in birding lingo. And although I thought I’d seen Buffleheads, there was no notation in my guidebook until today. So two new birds. Neat.

Diane and I enjoy birding. Hopefully with the weather changing, signs of Spring, we can get out on some birding walks. Of course, more snow is predicted for tomorrow.

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