For the past several months, I have been averaging one birding outing and then blogging about it. Let’s keep the tradition alive with the month of March.
Indiana has been experiencing a particularly brutal winter, as I have written about previously. But one of the unexpected bonuses has been an influx of deep-water waterfowl. Lake Michigan has been completely frozen over, which has caused problems for some of the birds that typically prefer deeper, larger expanses of water.
These Red-Necked Grebes (lifer!) are among those birds that have been driven inland in search of open water. They found it in Fort Wayne at the terminal pond of the water treatment plant. While not exactly the best-sounding place for me to spend a relaxing Sunday morning, this man-made lake was the best habitat for waterfowl, because it circulates and is heated by whatever they do to it at the plant. Other atypical ducks that have seen surging numbers away from the lakeshore include Long-Tailed Ducks, White-Winged Scoters, and myriad Loons, none of which were also present. But I did get one more lifer.
Somehow, the Common Merganser (lifer!) was the only Merganser that I had not yet seen. This male was one of the individuals present that let me complete the trifecta. Even from considerable distance, their shape and color blocking made identification easy.
There were hundreds (thousands?) of other birds on the water, too. These Gadwalls represented only the second instance of the species I have seen, and they were in full-on courtship mode, chasing and shoving each other around in the lake. From a distance, the best field mark to identify these ducks is the white spot and black butt.
The river had a few birds as well, like this Lesser Scaup, which can be separated by the shape of the head from the similar Greater Scaup. The Mallard in the background offers an interesting size comparison.
Okay, so this final duck was not present in Fort Wayne, and if you are a long-time reader you may recognize it. I saw this Muscovy Duck on the University of Miami campus (hence the White Ibis behind it) in 2012 when Jaime and I were in Florida for my sister’s graduation. At the time, I counted it, but later on I took it off the life list after learning that the South Florida population is descended from domestic stock. In the mean time, I read a great article on 10,000 Birds arguing the case for birds like this, since they are obviously self-sustaining and breeding in the wild. They are basically in the same boat as the ubiquitous European Starlings, House Sparrows, and Rock Pigeons found in every other city that are also descended from feral individuals. So, I have decided that since it’s my list, I will put it back on. With this armchair tick, my life list now stands at 223 species.