Red-breasted Merganser and Home

Wednesday, Jan 7, I had to meet a friend to return a scarf of theirs in Pine Bluff.  My friend is a fellow birder and they decided that we should meet at Lake Saracen.  I returned the scarf and then scanned the lake. This was just a quick stop but I did see some good birds.  Pelicans and cormorants were scattered about and I glimpsed a few Ring-billed Gulls.  On the main island there were both Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.  A lone Belted Kingfisher perched on a low branch hanging off the island.  In the shallow waters between this island and the main parking, where I was sitting, were several floaters.  The main raft was a group of Ruddy Ducks that were surrounded by a handful of Pied-billed Grebes.  I looked away for a minute and when my gaze returned their were several new ducks.  There were a couple of Hooded Mergansers and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers.  They were quickly diving under and resurfacing in an odd behavior that didn’t seem very conducive to catching fish but may have been more of a mating ritual.  It was reminiscent of dolphins jumping out of the water which is technically the inverse of what was happening.  Several species of ducks have completed their mate selection by the time they migrate north (although their choice is subject to change as they meet new ducks along the way).  I’m not sure what they were doing but it was fun to watch.

Hooded Merganser female and Great Egret

Hooded Merganser female and Great Egret

The Red-breasted Merganser eludes me most years so I was ecstatic to see it so early in the year.  Last year, around November/December, a large raft of them showed up on Lake Saracen.  I was lucky enough to see them but shortly after I saw them they dissipated.  I was afraid that I might miss them this year as I have for most years.  I hope they stay around for a while because I’m sure others will want to see them and I’d like to get some better photographs of them.

Red-breasted Merganser female

Red-breasted Merganser female

Around the house I’ve been getting some of the usual.  I’ve had waves of Juncos and Chipping Sparrows sweep through.  I got the yards first towhee on the 5th.

Eastern Towhee male

Eastern Towhee male

We’ve had a new visitor to the suet: Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  I never thought of these to be suet eaters but I’m glad they like it.  They join our Downy Woodpeckers, Pine Warblers, occasional junco, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and cardinals as a recorded suet eater this year.

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal female

Northern Cardinal female

One day this week we had a blackbird invasion.  A flock of at least 300 individuals flew into surrounding woods and foraged in the adjacent yards.  They picked through the leaf litter for all sorts of worms, grubs, etc.  While in the trees an opportunistic Red-tailed Hawk stopped by to see if it could get  a meal.  They didn’t harass it as much as I thought they would and it came away empty handed; however, it did pick up a small mammal later on.  The flock was approximately 90% Common Grackles, 9% European Starlings, and 1% Rusty Blackbird.  The cacophony was thrilling.  As the hawk flew they quieted down until it settled.  A good time at home which is hopefully indicative of a good year to come.

Mostly Grackle flock

Mostly Grackle flock

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