November 16 2012. Ruthven Park Cayuga ON. It’s duck season. For some that means food on the table, but for me it means the return of many of our quite spectacular waterfowl, spectacular because the males have left behind their drab, mid-summer, eclipse plumage and are dressed in their finest. Yesterday morning before a morning meeting I went to the same shallow pond where on October 17th I’d seen a group of four Great Egrets, in their place were groups of Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal and Hooded Mergansers. In every group the males were gleaming in the morning sun, spectacular – as I said earlier.
Today I visited the bird observatory property to remove some European Buckthorn, an invasive shrub species, from the woodlands. Naturally I was just as busy watching out for birds. On the river were a couple of large groups of nervous looking Canada Geese, I say nervous-looking because they behaved as if they’ve visited too many seemingly quiet backwaters and corn fields that turned out to be quite deadly. Further downstream a group of about a dozen mergansers was mixing in with some young Common Goldeneyes. The mergs were mostly Common Mergansers, easy to tell apart when you see the stark white of the males’ upperparts which distinguishes them from the darker Red-breasted Mergansers. But the females are not quite as easy to separate although on the Common the sharp line at the throat between the dark head and the pale breast is diagnostic.
Mergansers on the river can be quite evasive and I had a low expectation of photographing them, but to my delight my rather amateurish ambush paid off and I was lucky to get this shot of a group of Common Mergansers and a single Hooded Merganser, all females.