March is a good time to look for ducks, assuming, of course, there is some open water.
I took a short drive the other day to a large reservoir and found that the water was still largely frozen. There were plenty of open spots, however, and one, in particular, caught my attention. I saw mallards from a distance and zeroed in to see if anything else was lurking there.
The mallards I had seen were not mallards at all but a pair of American black ducks. Male and female black ducks resemble female mallards from a distance with their overall bland coloring and similar size and shape. A closer look revealed the black duck’s darker coloration. Male black ducks also have a yellow bill, similar to a male mallard’s bill. The females of both species have duller bills.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Redhead swims alongside a Ring-necked Duck in Darien in March 2014.
In a previous post I mentioned I had seen a Redhead at Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien, Conn. It was the first time I had seen a Redhead at this small pond and it shared the water with Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese and Mallards.
At one point or another, I saw the Redhead “cross paths” with each of the other kinds of ducks. With one exception, the other ducks and geese basically paid no attention to the Redhead. In fact, at one point it was diving among a small flock of Canada Geese. It resurfaced next to a different goose every time and none of the geese seemed to mind.
It hung around the Ring-necked Ducks quite a bit and my suspicion is that it arrived with those ducks and will likely depart with them as well. Just a guess.
Five Hooded Mergansers passed the Redhead at one point with no drama.
Photo by Chris Bosak A flock of Hooded Mergansers swims past a Redhead at a Darien pond in March 2014.
But the Wood Ducks did not like the Redhead getting too close. The Redhead drifted over from one side and the Wood Ducks from the other. When they got close enough, the male Wood Duck lowered its head and snapped repeatedly at the Redhead. Then the female Wood Duck did the same thing. The Redhead casually drifted away from the Woodies, but apparently not fast enough as the male Wood Duck reacted even more strongly to shoo away the somewhat rare New England visitor.
Fun stuff, this birdwatching hobby.
Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Wood Ducks show their displeasure with a nearby Redhead in Darien in March 2014.
Photo by Chris Bosak Redhead seen in Darien pond in March 2014.
I drove past the pond at first, assuming nothing of note would be there. But that nagging voice in the back of my head said: “Go back and check. It’ll take five minutes and you’re right here anyway.” I listened to that voice, as I usually do, and it paid off, as it often does.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Redhead swims at a pond in Darien in March 2014.
The pond at Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien is small but often fairly productive. It’s a good place to see Wood Ducks in the fall and spring. Hooded Mergansers are frequent visitors in winter when the water isn’t frozen over. Ring-necked Ducks are occasional visitors. And, of course, Canada Geese and Mallards are usually there.
But one day this week, not only were Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks all there, but a surprise visitor was there as well. Redheads are a beautiful medium-sized duck that are seen occasionally in New England. I’ve seen massive flocks of them in the Midwest, but only a handful of times have I seen them in New England. They are seen sometimes within huge flocks of scaup. But I’ve never seen one in New England at a pond as small as this one. It was interesting to see it among the mergansers and ring-neckeds.
This is a male Redhead. The female is much duller in color, mostly tannish brown.
In a post later this week I’ll let you know how the Redhead seemed to get along with the other ducks in the small pond.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Redhead seen in Darien in March 2014.
Photo by Chris Bosak Ring-necked Ducks swim at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, March 2014.
In my last post about getting out there to check out the ducks before they are gone for the summer, I listed a bunch of ducks that winter throughout New England, but breed farther north. I left off that list Ring-necked Duck. It just didn’t come to mind when I was compiling the list. Sure enough, the next day I went out for a quick bird walk and the only ducks I saw were Ring-necked Ducks. I immediately thought: Hey, I don’t think I mentioned Ring-necked Ducks in that last post.
So, finally getting its due, here you have the Ring-necked Duck, a very handsome duck that spends its winters here in New England (and well south, too) and breeds in northern New England and into Canada. As you can see from the photo, a more apt name might be Ring-billed Duck, but the scientists who named it likely had a dead specimen in hand and the ring around its neck — which is difficult to see in the field — was more visible. It took me years to stop calling it Ring-billed Duck, but I eventually got used to it.
Also, as you can see from the photo, the species is sexually dimorphic: the males and females look different. All ducks seen in New England are sexually dimorphic with the males often brilliantly colored and females usually more dull in color.
Over the years I’ve taken tons of Hooded Merganser photos. I just love those little ducks and find them infinitely interesting.
So this weekend, what did I do? I took more Hooded Merganser photos, of course. About five males and four females were utilizing a small pool of unfrozen water on an otherwise frozen lake at Sellecks/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Conn. The males were not displaying, but that time is coming soon. (A video I took last winter of their breeding display behavior is included at the bottom of this post.)
Here are the latest. (Remember, you can always send me your bird photos and I’ll include them on my “Reader Submitted Photos” page. Send me your photos at email@example.com.
Now for those hoodies:
Photo by Chris Bosak Hooded Mergansers swim in a small unfrozen section of water at Selleck’s/Dunlap in Darien, Conn., in Feb. 2014.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Hooded Merganser swim in a small unfrozen section of water at Selleck’s/Dunlap in Darien, Conn., in Feb. 2014.