Migratory Waterfowl on Local Ponds and Lakes

Following the deep freeze of a week ago, temperatures soaring into the fifties and sixties during recent days have brought to mind thoughts of spring.  In the pond at susquehannawildlife.net headquarters, Green Frogs are again out and about.

Green Frogs
A pair of Green Frogs seen today alongside the headquarters pond.  A sign of spring?

But is this really an early spring?  Migrating waterfowl indicate otherwise.  Having been forced south from the Great Lakes during the bitter cold snap, a variety of our tardy web-footed friends belatedly arrived on the river and on the Susquehanna Flats of upper Chesapeake Bay about ten days ago.  Now, rising water from snow melt and this week’s rains have forced many of these ducks onto local lakes and ponds where ice coverage has been all but eliminated by the mild weather.  For the most part, these are lingering autumn migrants.  Here’s a sample of some of the waterfowl seen during a tour of the area today…

Snow Geese
Like other late-season migrants, Snow Geese take advantage of open water on area lakes until ice forces them south to the Atlantic Coastal Plain.  In a little more than a month from now, they’ll begin working their way north again.
Tundra Swans and American Black Ducks loafing on an ice-free lake.
Tundra Swans and American Black Ducks loafing on an ice-free lake.
Mute Swans
The non-native Mute Swan has become an invasive species.  Because they are predominantly non-migratory, groups of Mute Swans congregating in valuable wetland habitat can decimate these aquatic ecosystems with their persistent year-round feeding.  Their long necks help them consume enormous quantities of benthic foods that would otherwise be available to migratory diving ducks during their autumn and spring stopovers.
Gadwalls
Small flocks of Gadwalls will sometimes spend the winter on ice-free vegetated ponds in the lower Susquehanna region.
A mixed flock of diving ducks on a small lake.
A mixed flock of diving ducks on a small lake.  Let’s take a closer look!
Redheads, Lesser Scaup, and Canvasback
Six Redheads, three Lesser Scaup (top row left), and a Canvasback (upper right).
Redheads
Redheads.
Buffleheads
Buffleheads.
An adult male Lesser Scaup.
An adult male Lesser Scaup.
Lesser Scaup
A female (right) and a first-winter male (left) Lesser Scaup.
Canvasbacks and a Ruddy Duck
Canvasbacks and a Ruddy Duck.

With the worst of winter’s fury still to come, it’s time to say farewell to most of these travelers for a little while.  With a little luck, we’ll see them again in March or April.

Striped Skunk
Our official susquehannawildlife.net prognosticator climbed out of its winter hideout today to have a look around.   Then, without hesitation, the forecast for 2023 was issued, “Winter Stinks!”

Really Bad Poetry

Nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like a really bad poem, so here it is…

 

FOR THE LOVE OF DUCKS

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

My neighbors are complainin’

I can hear them talk

The mallards eat their garden

Let surprises on their walk

 

Dung stains on the carpets

They tracked it in the house

It’s from those ducks and not the pets

Can’t blame it on the spouse

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

Tamed with bread and crackers

I gave them as a treat

I soon found maimed dead quackers

Lying in the street

 

A driver who intended

To miss the hens and drakes

Had their car rear-ended

When they hit the brakes

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

The flock is very wasteful

Each bird a pound a day

Web-foots in a cesspool

Pollute the waterway

 

There are some kids playing

In that filthy ditch

Soon they’ll be displaying

The rash of Swimmer’s Itch

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

These ducks they do not migrate

They’re here day in, day out

Aquatic life they decimate

No plants, no fish, no trout

 

Hurry! Hurry! Heed my call

Before it starts to rain

Ten more ducklings took a fall

And are stranded in a drain

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

Have you people lost your minds?

I see you by your fence

These ducks are cute and I am kind

It’s you who’ve lost your sense

 

Beggars from the handouts

My God what have I done?

Their senseless habits leave no doubt

Their instincts are all gone

 

I like to feed the duckies

Try it and you’ll see

Aren’t they really lucky?

Relying just on me

 

Now I know just what to do

Like one would teach a child

I’ll feed the ducks at the zoo

And let the rest live wild

 

So if you feed the duckies

Beware of the spell

Or you will do the same as me

Loving ducks to death as well

 

—Ducks Anonymous, LLC

 

They’re cute, but if you really love waterfowl, then please refrain from feeding them.  Hand-fed ducks soon lose their survival instincts.  These clueless birds do dumb things like loiter in traffic and, perhaps worst of all, omit migration from their yearly life cycle.  Daily plundering by year-round congregations of Canada Geese, Mute Swans, polygamous Mallards (seen here), and domestic waterfowl is decimating native plant and animal populations in waterways, wetlands, ponds, and lakes throughout the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed.  For aquatic food chains and fisheries to recover, people must stop feeding (and releasing) these highly-impressionable birds.