Thursday, March 13, 2014

Duck Notes

Port Lambton at noon today

After yesterday's depressing weather, things were settling down today.  The sun was out and the wind had mostly died.  It was a slow start today as I had difficulty getting out of bed!  Everyone is getting sick and tired of this weather as it has been the harshest winter in many decades and it is taking its toll on everyone and everything.

Waterfowl around the Great Lakes has suffered, and much has been in the News lately.  Stories from all over  are coming out of dead and dying ducks and I would like to touch on it very briefly.  I already mentioned the situation almost a month ago as we were finding many dead ducks along the St. Clair River.  Many were Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, and lately Canvasback and Redhead (more Canvasback).

Many canvasbacks wandering the road and getting hit

The simple fact is that they have not been getting enough food.  Open water has been at a premium this winter and sources are limited. One might even speculate that there is less food available than there used to be for whatever reasons.  Many duck populations are not as high as in the past, so an increase in the number of ducks is not a real factor.

Also a month ago we were seeing ducks wandering far inland where we would not normally see them at this time of year.  I think the lack of nourishment had left them delirious.

Recently, ducks have been highly concentrated along the shorelines where it is shallower. Hence more available food.

In any case, studies have been done showing how malnourished the ducks have been.  Here is a good article brought to my attention today (thanks Alan!):
It gives actual figures of weight.

Another news article for the New York state area is here:

In the past, the winter of 2008 was particularly cold around here and many dead ducks were found on the St. Clair River as well.  Studies on collected specimens determined that the ducks had starved.  That winter there was a rather high number of ducks wintering on the St. Clair River, so competition for food was high.

One can also expand into the phenomena of wandering grebes and loons which has already been mentioned on this blog and elsewhere.  Red-necked Grebes in particular have shown up in unusual locations and in unusual numbers at places they normally have not in the past.  They need food every day and when their wintering spots freeze over, they start wandering!

One of two wigeon I saw this evening at McKeough Outlet Park
Those were spring migrants as none were on the river this winter

It looks like a cold spring, so ice will be around for a while.  Hopefully, though, the weather will get more reasonable from now on!  It has been a costly winter.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for those links Blake, always nice to see some evidence backing up all of our claims. It is really touch to see all these dead/starving birds but hopefully relief for them (and us!) isn't too far off.