As summer and lake seasons winds down for the year, it's our opportunity to see the lake in a different way. As you look across the lake, you start seeing more ducks swimming than boats and jet skis. Some ducks are year round residents, but are in quieter areas of the lake, such as up river and in small coves.
Ducks are some the most interesting birds I have written about. Ducks eat plants, insects, fish, seeds and crustaceans. They are known as waterfowl because they live near ponds, rivers, and lakes. Ducks live on every continent except Antarctica. They can be found in freshwater habitats and in saltwater. They have a lifespan of up to 10 years. According to A-Z-Animals.com ducks have some interesting facts. They all have waterproof feathers and a unique system of blood vessels to keep their feet warm in cold weather. Not all ducks quack and they can turn their heads backward to clean, or preen their feathers. Like most other birds, the males are more colorful than females.
There are diving ones and dabbling ones. Diving ducks feed by submerging their whole bodies underwater while those that dabble look likes bobbers. Diving ducks squeeze their feathers against their body, expelling the air trapped between which allows them to dive below the surface. Another interesting fact about diving ducks is their feet and legs are placed further back to help them swim and dive, and so they do not usually walk on land as dabbling ducks do. Dabbling ducks sit high on the water, feeding on vegetation and small invertebrates on or near the surface. From a distance, dabbling ducks can be easily spotted with their tails in the air and feet kicking around to keep them submerged. Again, they look like bobbers!
The most common dabbling ducks seen at the lake are Mallards, Wood Ducks, Green-winged Teals and Northern Pintails. The most common diving birds seen here are Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Redheads and Ruddy Ducks.
When to watch for dabbling ducks?
Not all birds swimming on the lake are ducks. There are other waterfowl such as coots, loons and grebes. Loons are water birds, only going ashore to mate and incubate eggs. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, allowing efficient swimming but only awkward movement on land. Loons are agile swimmers but they move pretty fast in the air too. Migrating loons have been clocked flying at speeds more than 70 mph. These water birds can live up to 20 to 30 years and return to the same lake annually to breed. Coots are medium-sized water birds with small heads and scrawny legs. Coots have predominantly black plumage. They are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. Coots are often see with ducks. A grebe is not a duck. Grebes have lobed toes, an adaptation they use to propel themselves underwater to get food, and a duck has webbed feet. Grebes have an ancient lineage to flamingos.
Watching the season fade from summer into beautiful fall foliage brings a calm and peacefulness to the lake. During this time, I often think of one my favorite movies “On Golden Pond” when Katheryn Hepburn is so excited to see the loons return to the lake. It is the perfect time of the year to grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and sit on the dock early in the morning as the fog rises up from the water and the stillness awakens into morning. With patience, you might be so lucky as to see some of our beautiful water foul bringing in the day!
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