Ice-out has Started

After a winter season of frozen lakes and wetlands, early spring blows in on warm southerly winds. Small pockets of ice begin to thaw. Accompanying the winds are ducks. They push the limits and begin their northly migration, even though another arctic blast may refreeze these pools.

Nothing against my neighbors to the north, but I like it when lakes and wetlands near me begin to open up but those further north are locked up in ice. I am in no hurry for warm weather to lure waterfowl further north. This gives us time to enjoy the migratory waterfowl.

As the season advances, the populations increase, creating an opportunity to investigate and identify the various species.

Colors and color-patterns are just two of several features used to identify ducks. One color that really draws attention is white. Yet, there are multiple species of birds with an abundance of white plumage. Upon closer inspection, you can start differentiating them. Keep in mind that the males and females look different.

Here are a few examples of male ducks with significant white plumage.

The Common Merganser is at the larger end of the spectrum. Their size, color pattern, and bill shape can help identify this species. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 2x teleconverter @ 800mm, ISO 1000 f/11, 1/800. ©Stanley Buman.
The Bufflehead is at the smaller end of the spectrum. It is most easily identified by the color pattern on the head. Canon 1D Mark IIN + 500mm lens, ISO 400, f5.6, 1/250 ©Stanley Buman.
The Canvasback is probably best identified by the long ski-jump profile of its head and bill. Its red head is another feature in identification but don’t confuse it with the duck called “Redhead”. Canon 1D Mark IV + 500mm lens & 2x teleconverter @ 1000mm, ISO 400, f9.0, 1/1250 ©Stanley Buman.
The Common Goldeneye is often the first migrant to arrive. Note the bright golden eye and the roundish white patch near the bill. Sony a1 + 600mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 840mm, ISO 400 f/6.3, 1/3200. ©Stanley Buman.
The Lesser Scaup has more of a mottled coloration of dark and light feathers on its back. Canon 1D Mark IIN + 500mm lens, ISO 400, f9.0, 1/800 ©Stanley Buman.

All of the species above are divers. A quick scan over a lake may not reveal much. But keep scanning. They just seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Enjoy the spring migration season!

8 thoughts on “Ice-out has Started”

  1. Thanks for the great photos and the identification hints. I’m so glad migration is in process. Happy Spring to you!

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