Faced with nasty weather, I took a short road trip in search of wildlife that might be out and about in freezing rain: perhaps an insulated, waterproof species, at home in the icy water. To my surprise, that turned out to be dozens of ring-necked ducks on a local reservoir. They were feeding, sometimes diving in unison. These little ducks are always a treat, but especially so in a cold and dreary landscape.
A rainy, overcast day with dirty snow and mud seems like a good time to reflect on the month of March and illustrate early spring in Central New York. I’ll emphasize wet places and some of the birds that frequent them.
Canada Goose and a pair of ring-necked ducks
Canada geese grazing in a farm field
Killdeer grooming at a spring seep
A pair of mallards under the reflection of deep snow
Great Blue Heron over ice and Canada geese on open water
A solitary Snow Goose in a flock of Canada geese
Migrating snow geese above farm fields, refueling on waste grain
Ring-necked Ducks are common in late winter and during migration. I often see them in small flocks on wooded lakes and reservoirs, resting or diving for submerged plant and animal life. Unlike most other diving ducks, small, shallow ponds and wetlands are also suitable habitat. Yesterday I watched two pairs loafing and feeding on a farm pond that was less than 150 feet across.
The male is not particularly colorful. However, the smooth, glossy appearance, sharp lines, and contrasting black, white and pale gray plumage are quite appealing and very useful for field identification.
It’s spring but the cold, snowy weather suggests otherwise. Sunlight is a precious commodity right now. When it looked like evening light might work its way through occasional gaps in the cloud cover, I decided to battle cabin fever with a “scenic drive” on secondary roads near home, hoping to capture something special. There were plenty of surprises and ephemeral moments. These were my favorites.