Wetland Birdlife: Resting, Diving, Hunting and Fishing

Officially, we’re more than 3 weeks into Spring, but this past weekend was really the seasonal turning point. Cold rain, residual surface ice and flooding prevailed, but have since yielded to very warm, sunny days and an early floral bloom in the lawn.

Wetland habitats were alive with ducks, geese, herons and birds of prey, presenting one last chance for observations and photos under winter conditions.

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Hooded Merganser; Chenango Canal

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Bufflehead; Leland Pond

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Common Mergansers; Chenango Canal

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Ring-necked Duck, hen; Woodman Pond

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Ring-necked Ducks; Woodman Pond

In my peripheral vision there appeared to be several darkish clumps of cattails about 50 meters into the marsh. I drove a short distance, then pulled over. Something wasn’t quite right. The dark clumps of cattails were tipped in white…herons! There were 6 in an area no more than 20 meters across. All but one took flight seconds before I was in a position to photograph.

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The river was at flood level, turbulent and muddy; in my mind, unfishable The Osprey seemed to agree. It was hunting/fishing over a flooded tributary and floodplain nearby.

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Osprey; Chenango River floodplain

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved..

Wetland Wildlife in Early Spring

The source of a nearby reservoir and pond is a wetland complex with a mix of wooded swamps, cattail marshes and surface waters. After three months of hunkering down in cold and snow,

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it’s exhilarating to see the biological diversity of these precious habitats come alive!

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Common Merganser, drake, just after a foraging dive; a hen was nearby

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Great Blue Heron landing near the edge of a cattail marsh

Cattail marshes, as pictured above, are the preferred habitat of muskrats: they provide food, retreat cover and home-building supplies. Muskrat populations have crashed in recent years, due in part to the replacement of native cattails by an aggressive, invasive perennial plant – Common Reed (Phragmites). Needless to say, I was pleased to see two of these small furbearers on my wetland excursion.

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Great Blue Heron, navigating to another section of the wetland. Rain and melt-water have made good perches and wading sites hard to find.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.