There was some nice light yesterday for a bit so I just had to get out into the field, I needed to just think about birds and photographing them and escape my concerns about our country for a while. Antelope Island looked socked in by fog, in fact from I-15 I couldn’t even see it, not even Frary Peak, so Farmington Bay seemed like the logical choice. And it was.
I spent time photographing a few Rough-legged Hawks but my personal choice for birds of the day were the Common Mergansers I observed and photographed. There are only a few locations in Utah where Common Mergansers can be seen year round, mostly I see them in the fall through early spring but usually winter presents the most opportunities. I don’t see them all that often so I jump when I can photographed these saw-billed ducks.
The males and females, or drakes and hens, look quite different from each other in breeding plumage, in nonbreeding plumage they look more alike. First winter males look similar to the females.
There are a few species of ducks including Common Mergansers that nest in cavities in trees, Common Mergansers will nest in live or dead trees and man made nest boxes. Less often they will also nest in rocky crevices, holes in the ground, hollow logs, cliffs and holes in banks.
Common Mergansers are social and they are usually seen in numbers from 3 to 25 or more. Yesterday I saw about 10 at Farmington Bay where I photographed these mergansers.
In my American Coot being chased by Mallards for food post yesterday I mentioned that some ducks are intraspecific and interspecific kleptoparasites which means they steal food from their own species and from other species, Common Mergansers fit into that group and they are food thieves. They eat fish and when Pied-billed Grebes catch fish near Common Mergansers the mergansers will try to steal the prey. That happened once yesterday where it got a little crazy trying to follow them with my lens as the merganser chased the grebe, unfortunately I didn’t get any decent pictures of the action. It was too frenzied!
Mergansers in general are called “saw bills” because of the serrated edges of their bills, those serrations help them hold onto their slippery prey.
I usually see far more females and first year Common Mergansers than I do males in breeding plumage so I focused on this handsome guy often yesterday. They are handsome looking ducks. That red bill and the green head plus the snow whites and grays of their body are a visual delight for me.
Even though the females and young are drab compared to the males I think they have their own refined, subtle beauty. I won’t pass up photographing them whenever I have the chance.
I was grateful to get out, feel the cold air on my skin, see the sun shining and to be able to focus entirely on birds for a few hours yesterday. I needed the peace being with them brings me.
Life is good.