Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Love Birds are Back! OK, OK, so they're Turkey Vultures! Also, Mergansers may have Designs on the Beaver Pond

For several years, a pair of Turkey Vultures have likely been breeding at a neighboring farm
I always know that spring has truly arrived when I see that the resident pair of Turkey Vultures have returned to the neighbor's farm yard. I believe that they nest somewhere in the nearby collapsed barn. Turkey Vultures do accept a wide range of nesting situations - including cliffs, hollow trees, barns and other abandoned buildings.  There's another pair in a nearby town which set up housekeeping in the chimney of an abandoned house. It was kind of a spooky old house as it was - and now it has vultures!
The Common Merganser male at our Beaver Pond
Common Mergansers are not unusual sights in our area. We see them mostly on larger creeks, rivers and lakes. They will over-winter in the region as long as they have some ice-free water - and they usually do. Even as cold as this past winter was, mergansers were able to eke out a living on the Mohawk River and the West Canada Creek. These skilled divers rely on habitats rich in fish which is their primary food. The mergansers are unusual in the fact that their bill's have serrated edges. These act as teeth and enable the duck to get a tight grip on its prey. A pair have spent the last 5 days at our main beaver pond. The female has been seen looking at some of the duck boxes at that pond, so maybe she is intending to nest. Honestly, I'm not sure that we have enough fish in that pond to support one merganser, let alone a whole family, but they probably know what they're doing. I see them diving and coming up with minnows, but these are big ducks and they can eat a lot of fish! We'll see if they stay.
Our pair of Common Mergansers - the female has a reddish head with a fringed crest 
Face down, the female scouts for fish

She sees something and down she goes!
The male Canada Goose - "Felix" gets bossy with the female merganser
The female goose - "Greta" is sitting on her nest on a nearby island
At the beaver pond, our resident pair of Canada Geese haven't been overjoyed about the presence of the mergansers, but they're also never pleased to see the beavers. Lately the male goose - "Felix", has been rather halfheartedly chasing the ducks, but he soon gives up and no one seems to take his bossiness too seriously, including the beavers that simply dive to get out of his way.
Felix doesn't even give the beavers a pass - and they made the pond!
Near nightfall, Greta comes off of the nest for a snack and a quick bath
Mergansers likes to loaf right behind the island where the goose nest is
Meanwhile, the male Wood Duck waits beneath a nest box - hoping his mate will emerge
If the female does decide to nest here, the male will leave at the onset of incubation
Felix drives off a female Mallard this time - she's nesting here also
Lots of action for a relatively small pond

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