Fine Weather For Ducks

Canvasback (photo by Chuck Tague)…but not so fine for humans. 

I went to Moraine State Park today because I read on PABIRDS that the edges of the lake were frozen, so the ducks would be concentrated in one area and easy to see. 

As I arrived at the lake the first bird I saw was a beautiful red-shouldered hawk – a good omen – then a family of four tundra swans who flew away almost immediately.  I had been waiting to see tundra swans since early November.  Finally!

There were many ducks on the lake: common and hooded mergansers, horned and pied-billed grebes, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, greater scaup, redheads, canvasbacks, gadwall, and mallards. 

Best Birds were the canvasbacks.  They have three crisp colors – white, black and rusty red – and a long sloping forehead and bill.  The canvasback pictured here was photographed a few years ago by Chuck Tague at the South Side landing.  (It is unusual to see them in the city.)

In field guides, canvasbacks and redheads are on the same page because they look similar.  Today I had the opportunity to compare them and they are noticeably different, even from a distance, when you see them side by side.
After standing in the cold for an hour I thought I’d go hiking but it began to rain and the fog closed in.  It was good weather for ducks but pretty depressing for a hike, so I went home. 

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