April 2 2017. RBG Hendrie Valley, Burlington, ON. Starting a census walk this morning with two companions, we had hardly gone a hundred meters, three minutes walking and commenting on the Red-winged Blackbirds all around us, when we saw a large bird fluttering against the trunk of an oak just a short distance in front of us. My first thought was Pileated Woodpecker, but no, it was a male Wood Duck. As we grasped what we were seeing he flew a few meters to alight on a slender branch and we saw he was in the company of a female, then it all made sense. A bonded pair, spring arrivals, needing a suitable nest cavity – house hunting. As we watched them for a few minutes I told my companions that we’d have to find something really exceptional to top these two as birds of the day. Evidently the small knothole he’d been examining when we first spotted him was not up to their standards because they soon left.
The census took a three hours; there were more birds this time than last. The steady but quiet surge of new arrivals reminded me of the ebb and flow of the ocean tides: you know it’s happening, you can watch and measure the trickle (as we birders do) and every now and then appreciate just how thoroughly all the ecological bays and inlets have filled up (or drained out). Our morning species list reached thirty-two, ten more than the same route just three days ago.
New on today’s rising tide were the Wood Ducks, an Eastern Phoebe, two each of Golden Crowned Kinglets, Northern Flickers and Brown–headed Cowbirds. A wide, shallow pond held half a dozen Gadwall and a pair of Buffleheads as well as many more male Wood Ducks, Mallards and a Mute Swan.
In the small rushing river that makes this valley what it is, we watched this handsome, male Hooded Merganser fight the current in his efforts to get away from us.
All nice birds and welcome spring arrivals many of them. But none of them could steal the Bird of the Day prize from the Wood Ducks.