Early birds

The ice is still thick on the lakes here, and snow is at least a foot deep in the backyard, but some of the early migrant ducks have managed to find open water.  A few Common Mergansers and Ring-necked Ducks swam in small pools of ice-melt in the Minnesota River at the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge.  As usual, they stayed as far from shore (and me) as possible.

Common Merganser males are striking with their white sides, dark backs and iridescent green heads (not that I could see that from 100 yards away!).

Common Merganser males are striking with their white sides, dark backs and iridescent green heads and orange bills (not that I could see that from 100 yards away!).

A pair of Common Mergansers in their typical habitat, a forest lake where tree holes for nesting can be found.  Photo credit:  By Karsten (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

A pair of Common Mergansers in their typical habitat, a forest lake where tree holes for nesting can be found.  The female often flares her rusty brown head crest; the male usually keeps his neatly combed back.  Photo credit: By Karsten, from Wikimedia Commons (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/07/Mergus_Merganser_Pair.jpg)

Common Mergansers are large diving ducks that breed in northern forests in North America, Europe, and Asia.  Their slender, bright orange bills are notched with serrations to help them grab fish and various invertebrates, so they are sometimes referred to as “sawbills”.

My presence seemed to make the mergansers nervous, and after unsuccessfully trying to hide behind Canada Geese, they took off, running on the water and then flapping strongly and quickly out of sight.

I love the way the pair of Canada Geese in the foreground watched the noisy take-off by three male Common Mergansers.

I love the way the pair of Canada Geese in the foreground watch the noisy take-off by three male Common Mergansers.

I managed to scare off a few other mergansers while trying to photograph them as well.

common merganser flying

common merganser flying

3 thoughts on “Early birds

  1. Chuckling. I’m glad I’m not the only one chasing off the waterfowl!! Right now there are a bunch of Red-Necked Grebes (very unusual for our area) in a little bay in our neighborhood. I keep stopping by each night hoping to get a decent close-up. No luck. They just dive and swim to the farthest shore to stay out of good camera range.

    • Oh, so aggravating. Ducks and grebes are so shy; I think the only way to get decent shots is to hide in a blind (which in our weather would take some courage). Good luck with your quest!

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