(Please click any image to open a page with a larger, and sharper, version)
The small ponds that dot the Prairies at this time of the year each hold the chance of a surprise with regards to birds. With the migrations back to the north starting to pass through, swans, cranes and geese can be found at any bog, pool of meltwater or more stable body of water. The waterfowl which will summer here are returning as well so ducks of all stripes and sizes are looking for water to nest alongside.
It was in one of these shallow ponds in between Bragg Creek and Calgary that I found a paddle of ducks comprised of Mallards, several Barrow’s Goldeneye and one lone Hooded Merganser. It has been a while since I have seen one of these ducks and with this one, I was reminded how interesting they are. The fan-shaped crest with its white patch is very conspicuous. With his crest extended, this Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) seemed to strut around the pond as it swum between two female Goldeneyes.
When some Canada geese landed in the water nearby and started a racket with their honking, most of the ducks took flight, as seen below and in the lead photograph, for a less active spot.
It’s a great time of the year as spring starts to win its fight with winter and the birds come back to the Prairies. I really enjoyed spending time with these ducks.
There was a storm that burst out of the mountains and settled over the prairies around Calgary in the middle of the week. With the warmer weather that preceded the blizzard, there are hundreds of shallow depressions currently masquerading as ponds in the fields and meadows. It serves the waterfowl that are currently migrating to their breeding grounds in the north. I found this resolute swan paddling in one of these pools in Springbank. Together with a partner, it was dunking its head looking for food and seemingly oblivious to the angry snow falling. The Tundra and Trumpeter Swans briefly stop in this part of Alberta, the largest regattas only staying for one or two days. By the end of this weekend, most will have flown on. I did not get too close to these birds so I have to guess that this is a Trumpeter as I could not see a yellow spot on the bill which is only found on the Tundra Swan. However, with the mottled grey plumage, I think it is an adolescent and I’m not certain whether the yellow spot only develops in adults. Either way, great to see these short-term visitors.