Winter Ducks

For sheer visual pleasure it’s hard to beat the splendour of ducks on a sunny winter’s day.

March 1, 2021 | | Notes from the Wild

If you’re an aspiring birder, a great way to engage with beautiful birds, hone your binocular skills, and take terrific photos is to seek winter ducks.

While warblers and many other songbirds are gorgeous, they are small and often constantly on the move, making them difficult to pin down with binoculars.  For a novice birder, the experience can be frustrating.

Ducks, like warblers are beautiful, but they’re big and easy to find. Moreover, they often stay put, especially in winter when they congregate in the open water of lakes.

White-winged scoters feed on mollusks and other small creatures. Photo by Don Scallen.

White-winged scoters feed on mollusks and other small creatures. Photo by Don Scallen.

Long-tailed duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Long-tailed duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Redhead duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Redhead duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

The photos with this blog were taken along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Burlington, but Island Lake in Orangeville and Luther Marsh will host these species after ice-out.

Some species will stay to breed but most will head north to the Canadian Shield and even the high Arctic.

Ducks, like other groups of birds, divide the spoils of their chosen habitat by foraging in different ways.  Some, like the familiar mallards, are “dabblers,” content to dunk their heads and necks just under the water to feed on aquatic plants and small invertebrates.

White-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks are “divers,” propelling themselves to lakebeds with powerful webbed feet. There they feed on mollusks and other small creatures. Mergansers are fish eaters, equipped with serrated bills to grip their slippery prey.

White-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks are “divers,” propelling themselves to lakebeds with powerful webbed feet. Photo by Don Scallen.

White-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks are “divers,” propelling themselves to lakebeds with powerful webbed feet. Photo by Don Scallen.

Red-breasted merganser are fish eaters, equipped with serrated bills to grip their slippery prey. Photo by Don Scallen.

Red-breasted merganser are fish eaters, equipped with serrated bills to grip their slippery prey. Photo by Don Scallen.

Mallard ducks. Photo by Don Scallen.

Mallard ducks. Photo by Don Scallen.

Long-tailed duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Long-tailed duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Goldeneye duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Goldeneye duck. Photo by Don Scallen.

Good photos like the ones in this blog can be achieved with a handheld point and shoot camera. Quick and easy. However, a little more patience and a telephoto lens on a tripod will yield spectacular results. Check out Robert McCaw’s duck photography on his website: robertmccaw.com

For sheer visual pleasure it’s hard to beat the splendour of ducks on a sunny winter’s day. Avifaunal ambassadors, unabashedly flaunting their beauty. Spending time with them may leave you hopelessly besotted and stoke your desire to seek other winged wonders.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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