Sunday, April 7, 2013

Red-breasted Mergansers

Late this afternoon half a dozen male red-breasted mergansers were on Northfield's Superior Drive pond, keeping company with several pairs of hooded mergansers.

We haven't often seen these here. In late April 2011 we saw a lone female red-breasted merganser on the same pond, and I noted that I'd only seen them before up in Grand Marais, where we'd seen a mother with ducklings in August 2008.

Mergansers are diving ducks that eat mainly fish.

(Click on photo to see it larger)

Above, a male hooded merganser is flanked by five red-breasted mergansers -- note their considerably larger size than the small hoodie, as well as their bold, dark, fluffy-crested heads. An American coot is in the foreground -- a duck-like bird that is actually more closely related to rails and moorhens than to ducks. I last wrote about coots on April 4, 2012, after we saw large numbers of them at Lake Byllesby.

This pond was still almost entirely iced over as recently as Friday evening. Yesterday's warming temperatures and the afternoon's rain, followed by sun today, cleared out the ice in a hurry. Some remains, but the pond is largely ice-free today.

We also saw several yellowlegs, probably lesser yellowlegs, on the far edge of the pond that is to the south of the large pond. These, along with some recent killdeer, have been our first shorebirds of the season.

Dozens of ring-billed gulls were on the remaining ice on the large pond that lies between Jefferson Parkway and Superior Drive. Many of them were tearing at hunks of fish that we presumed had been dead in the water.

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