Ducks and Geese in Wellington Harbour

February 12, 2012
In all my years (and there have been more than I’d like to ‘fess up to) I’ve never seen a winter as mild as this one. We’re almost midway through February… in Ontario… Canada… and we haven’t had a real snowfall yet! :)
This weekend we did get a small reminder of winters past. There was an inch or two of snow, and the temperatures dropped to near season norms – and Elaine and I witnessed just how cold it was yesterday afternoon when we went out for a few hours photographer-ing (a word I have recently invented). :)
We started at the Moira River where we saw a very dramatic sign of just how cold it was. As we stepped out of the car, four Canada Geese on the far side of the river made a beeline toward us (probably hoping for some food). They reached our side quickly, and then stepped out of the water onto a narrow strip of icy shoreline. That’s when we noticed that one poor fellow’s bill was caked in ice.

I’ve never seen a duck or goose with such an icy build up. Elaine was quite upset to see the poor bird in this condition (notice also the damaged wing feathers) but there was nothing that we could do to help him. We hoped the ice on his bill wouldn’t prevent the bird from eating. In a later shot that I took, it showed the bill open about a 1/4″, so breathing and drinking wouldn’t have been an issue.
On a brighter note, there were two male Common Goldeneyes in the middle of the river, swimming against the current and frequently diving for food.

We stood and watched this beautiful pair of ducks for a few minutes, but the cold wind soon pushed us back into the car. We backed out onto Coleman Street and headed for the Bay Bridge and our main destination, Wellington Harbour.
When we arrived, we discovered that the stiff cold wind had come with us. We were tempted to do all our shooting from the cozy confines of our vehicle, but the waters were teeming with geese and ducks, and we couldn’t resist trying to get some closer shots. :)
There were hundreds and hundreds of Canada Geese. There were also Mallards, Goldeneyes, Mergansers, and plenty of Long-tailed Ducks. As we approached the nearby slip, a pair of Mallards flew up and past us. It happened very quickly, and I only managed to get this one shot of them.

Mallards are a very beautiful, much overlooked duck.
I next focused my camera on a small group of Long-tailed Ducks. They seemed to be being led around by an alpha male.

It’s probably just my imagination, but the slightly larger male seemed to be always in the lead, and when the rest of the group dove for fish, he would stay on the surface and “keep watch” – or so it seemed.
Elaine continued shooting the smaller ducks as I made my way south towards the lake. Suddenly the geese started calling urgently and a large number of them took to the sky. They flew towards Elaine, so she got some larger group shots, while I managed to grab a photo of this trailing pair.

It was great fun, and we shot for a while longer, but again the brisk cold wind was relentless, and it began whispering “go and get a bowl of hot chili at Tim Horton’s” – and so we did! :)
On the way out of the harbour we stopped for just a moment to look out over the lake.

It was a beautiful image to savour at the end of a really fun (if cold) afternoon!
Garry
www.birdingandmore.com
www.kirschphotography.com

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