Posts tagged ‘duck watching’

February 28, 2014

Weekend Nature Challenge: Duck Watching

by Melissa Harding

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Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.

Ogden Nash
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As winter is slowly starting to leave, and we look forward to spring, we are not the only ones that are making a note of the change in the season. Bird migration is starting to heat up as well. In the spring, the lengthening days trigger hormonal changes in the birds that prompt northward migration. While it is still a little early to be seeing warblers and blue birds, there is one particular kind of bird that starts its migrations early: ducks. Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl migrate south in the winter to warmer areas in search of food and habitat. The pathway that they choose is an instinctive one that follows a combination of geographic landmarks, celestial signs and magnetic fields. In Pennsylvania, many of the waterfowl that migrate through our state are following the Atlantic pathway, a 3,000 mile stretch that goes from the Arctic tundra of the Baffin island to the Caribbean. The most densely-traveled of all pathways, the annual migration brings us a whole host of fabulous birds to see.

This weekend, we challenge you and your family to find some migrating ducks. This is easier than you might think; as ducks fly thousands of miles, they seek surface waters such as lakes, rivers and ponds to rest. This is especially true after a storm. To find some ducks, all you need to do is find some water. While you may run into some mallards, a common species that often over winters here, you will also find a ton of new duck species that you may have never seen before. Buffleheads, canvasbacks, and more! Take your binoculars and a bird guide (or check out Cornell’s awesome online bird guide). Try making up ducks calls and try to draw the ones you can see in your nature journal. Even if you don’t know what each duck is called, seeing the massive rafts of floating ducks is an amazing sight for sure. You will be amazed at how many gorgeous birds there are just minutes away and so will your family!

Take the next few days to explore the ducks at a body of water near your home or favorite green space. What birds did you notice? Did you observe any other things of note? Tell us in the comments below.

The photo of hooded merganser above is used courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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