Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Long-tailed Duck

Fishermen call this sea duck by the name of "Hound" because of the barking noise that it makes.  There has been no shortage of "Hounds" around this winter. They are a beautiful species but viewing is limited by their practice of staying quite a distance from shore.  Bruce McTavish took the most phenomenal photo of a Long-tailed Duck this winter, a stray that was sitting just off a wharf.  He was able to sit in his car and enjoy the moment. I can only hope for such an opportunity.

These ducks were photographed in Cripple Cove off the Cape Race Road and this is, without doubt, the closest that I have gotten to this species.  There has been a regular raft of these birds at Cape Spear this year. One very interesting habit of these ducks is that they will often dive together.  One minute, there are 100 on the water and then, suddenly, they are all gone.  They tend to stay under water for a long time, and then they all pop up at once.

I understand that this species undergoes three molts during a year, with the female always being a little more dark than the male. Yet, when they are seen at a distance there is an abundance of white showing, not like the Common Eider that show with white and multiple dark females among them.
At North River, Margie McMillan spoke to a man working in his yard about the flock of LT Ducks sitting off-shore.  He remarked that this was the first time in ten years that these birds have come into this body of water.

It presented an opportunity for boat viewing. I couldn't help but think of the group who recently saw a number of seabirds just off-shore in Flatrock.  They were able to muster up a boat and head out to look at the birds up close. For us, we were land-locked and had to make do with the mini images offered through the binoculars and the glare of the sun on the water. That made seeing the small flock at Cripple Cove all the better.

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