Kid's Creek: A duck wintering sp[ot

By Dave Hanks

As you drive by the Burley golf course, either leaving or entering the city, cast your eyes to the west. By careful observation, you might see some waterfowl activity. Early in March, my wife spotted a large group of ducks feeding on the pond. That meant only one thing – time to get the camera and return to the scene of action. Using our truck as a blind and putting a hood over my head to hide any reflection from off my face, I proceeded to sit and wait them out.

Eight species of waterfowl showed themselves: Canada Goose, Greater Scaup, Barrow’s Goldeneye, American Wigeon, Redhead, Canvasback, and Common Merganser. The Redheads and Canvasbacks came into camera range, but the nicest was the female merganser. She proceeded, unknowingly, to swim right over to our truck. My wife said: “It’s going to come over and say Hi!” And it did.

The Common Merganser is a large (21” to 28”), fish eating duck. It has a long, slender beak that has toothy projections that help it secure the fish it catches while diving. The male has a green head and lots of white on his throat and undersides. The female’s head is reddish/orange. Both sexes have a crest with feathers that sticking out behind – as if they had not combed their hair.

They are a silent species, except when courting, when they make a “hoarse” crocking noise. Their nest is made in a tree cavity. The chicks leave the nest within a day after hatching. Little, light, fluffy bodies are uninjured in the tumble to the ground. These precocial chicks follow their mother and will often ride on her back. The first 12 days of life are devoted to the eating of insects, but then they switch to a fish diet.

I have always found mergansers interesting, and I would never pass up an opportunity to photograph them.

(Here she comes – crest feathers trailing wildly behind)