WORDS ON BIRDS
Enjoy Duck ďHuntingĒ with Binoculars
November 05, 2016
By Steve Grinley
brings ducks to our waters. Flocks of scoters and eider are easily
seen off our coast. Ruddy ducks and mergansers are arriving on area
lakes and reservoirs. Hunting season has begun and it reminds me of
a previous column that I will share with you again:
I always know when duck hunting season starts. No, Iím not a hunter.
I use to live on Plum Island. It was always that autumn morning when
I am awakened out of a sound sleep by the barrage of gunfire. The
first morning it always seems to start extra early, it is usually
unexpected and the number of loud bangs seems endless. Groggily, I
usually have to remind myself that Iím not waking up in the
Mid-East. This year it came from both sides, ocean and river marsh.
I choose to "hunt" instead with
binoculars. I donít have to wait for the "season" to start. I donít
need a license. And I can usually do it without disturbing the ducks
and geese, let alone any humans in the area.
The brisk fall weather that brings with it the annual migration of
ducks and geese has, indeed, arrived. Though many geese winter in
Massachusetts, large "VĒs of Canada geese have been making their way
south since early October. Snow geese have already been seen in
small numbers on Plum Island, on Cape Ann and in other areas of
eastern Massachusetts. Brant, a goose similar to the Canada goose
but smaller with a neck patch instead of the white "chin strap",
will also be arriving.
Rafts of dark
colored scoters contrast with the white collage of eiders that can
be seen moving offshore. Scores of ducks are settling on our lakes,
rivers and reservoirs. Most are on their journey further south, but
many arrive to spend the winter on our open waters, as long as the
waters remain open.
surface feeding ducks known as "dabblers" and there are diving
ducks. Many people are more familiar with the dabblers. Mallards,
black ducks, pintails, wood duck and teal are some of the surface
feeding ducks, often seen with their posterior exposed as they tip
in the water to feed. Most of the sea ducks as well as scaup,
golden-eye, bufflehead and all the mergansers are diving ducks,
completely submerging themselves, swimming under water in search of
Scores of ring-necked and
ruddy ducks have already arrived at the Cherry Hill Reservoir in
West Newbury along with a few American Widgeon, lesser scaup and
American coot. Coot are small, black hen-like ducks with white bills
that are fun to watch. Unlike mallards and black ducks that take to
flight by just lifting off the water, coot need to run across the
water for some distance before they are able to get airborne. This
is true of geese and many sea ducks as well, but it always seems
extra comical to watch a coot take off. Its chunky body seems too
much for its rapidly flapping wings to carry as it runs clumsily
along the water, but eventually liftoff does occur.
Pintail, green-winged teal, shovelers are showing up on the Parker
River Refuge. I received a report this past week of 2 male and 2
female hooded mergansers on the refuge. Fairly uncommon, these are
one of my favorite ducks, the male with its white crest and striking
rust and white markings on its dark body. Its cousin, the more
common red-breasted merganser with its "punk haircut" look,
frequents our ocean and harbors while the larger, sleek common
merganser winters on the Merrimack and other area rivers.
Soon golden-eyes, oldsquaw, scaup and buffleheads will congregate in
larger numbers on our waters. More black ducks, mallards, widgeon
and teal will arrive. If you live near a lake, river or by the ocean
you should notice an increase in the number of ducks on the water.
And, yes, the guns will take a few of them. But if you hunt with
binoculars like me, take solace in the fact that your duck hunting
season doesnít end, it will continue all winter long.
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