Monday, March 22, 2010

Hooded Mergansers and Tundra Swans

Late this afternoon when the temperature hit 55, we headed to the Lower Chippewa River for a stroll, and then down to Meridean to see if it was warm enough for the insects to be out and about.

Along the Chippewa River State Trail by County M, I heard a familiar sound "like dragging your finger over a well-inflated balloon" (according to Amphibians of Wisconsin).   I stopped and look for the frog that created it.  I scanned the wetlands, but the frog was invisible.  Try as I did, I could not spot it.

While I was looking down, I heard the faint calls of Tundra Swans over head.  I gave up on finding the frog and looked up.  I looked, and looked.  I couldn't see them either.

Then I spotted a faint silver flash as a skein of 30 or more high-flying swans turned - and their feathers caught the sun.  There they were.  Way, way up there.  Too high and too far away for a photo. 

Further up the road on the way to Meridean we were surprised to see our favorite oxbow - empty of waterfowl.  No ducks.  No geese.  What's up?

I stopped wondering when I spotted a Canada Goose, dead on a patch of ice floating near the shore.

Just south of Meridean, we stopped on a little bridge to check out 2 ducks swimming away towards the river.  I grabbed my binoculars and got a good look before they disappeared in the flooded forest.   Hooded Mergansers!

The smallest of the three mergansers found in Wisconsin, the drake is a strikingly handsome black and white bird with a fan-shaped, crested head, rusty brown flanks and narrow, black serrated bill.