Friday, June 7, 2013

Mergansers in the 'Hood

male Hooded Merganser (c) John Ashley
Wind-blown male Hooded Merganser
A "Lake Wind Advisory" blew in this afternoon, here at the end of the road. After enduring several hours of sustained winds of 20-25 mph, I finally gave up and moved my woodworking project indoors. Later on we pulled a small boat out of the water for two young men who had given up on paddling back to where they started - more beer than brawn aboard that vessel.

Today's wind advisory was below a "Gale Warning" (39-54 mph) and a "Small Craft Warning" (26-38 mph). But it was still windy enough for some of the smaller "craft" to haul out on shore. Or in this case, our dock.

Two of our lake's four pairs of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) tried to sleep through the storm from the safety of our old dock. The oldest and most handsome male, however, had to keep shaking his head feathers back into place every 10-20 seconds. His body was facing the wind, but his head was turned downwind in normal sleep position with his beak on his back. The other three birds slept just fine, but this guy didn't seem to get much rest at all.

Only one of the four females has young this summer, nine little fluff balls that first appeared just a few days ago. Still, Hooded Mergansers are one of the few duck species that appear to be increasing their numbers throughout most of their U.S. range (39 of 49 states), including Montana. Come fall, most of our mergansers will migrate westward to the coast. But a few will stick around and endure our winter storm warnings - wind and all.

Hooded Merganser pair (c) John Ashley
Hooded Merganser pair on a calm day earlier this week