The ducks are here | CAI

It is the season, the season of the ducks. As November gives way to December, we’re firmly in the waterfowl window here in Cape Town and the Islands, as well as the window when you realize you forgot to turn off your outdoor shower – you better go. do this as soon as this piece is finished. While some ducks have been here for a few months or more, the numbers of most don’t increase until things get cold enough, right now.

So it’s no coincidence that this coming weekend many poultry enumerators will be on hand to count all the ducks on Cape Cod freshwater ponds – it’s 38e Cape Cod annual waterfowl census, overseen by the Cape Cod Bird Club. Although it still takes place on the first weekend of December, in recent years we’ve discussed completing the survey at least a week later, as warmer winters keep ducks farther north longer. The science and the recollections of the ancients agree: Ponds don’t freeze up as soon as they used to, which means we might not see ducks until January or later. This may partly explain the downward trend in duck numbers we see in this dataset, as well as the fact that no one can ice skate on Cape Cod ponds anymore.

“Count the ducks?” How hard can that be? ”You might ask,“ Any idiot can count a few Mallards and a few Canada Geese? ”Ah, not that fast! type of idiot very specific and skilled at counting waterfowl. Over the years, 41 species of ducks, loons, grebes and other waterfowl have been recorded in this census, not counting several species of gulls and gulls. other strange seabirds, like when small arctic seabirds known as turtledoves were found on some ponds last year. This means you need to be prepared to identify nearly 50 species of seabirds. The water, some of which is not very cooperative, often hugging the distant shore of large ponds, disappearing underwater for a few minutes, or hiding under overhanging trees and shrubs. The familiar spotting scopes and experienced observers with the behavior of different species are essential to obtain accurate data.

What might you see if you’re going to duck this weekend? If you pay attention to freshwater ducks, even if you just delve into the topic, you won’t be surprised that the top five species by number include mallards, American black ducks, Canada geese, and small tourniquets. But you might be surprised that the scaup, two sparsely distributed species of diving ducks that prefer a few specific ponds, outnumber all of them. The two species of scaup, Small and Large, are so difficult to separate that most observers pass out and simply call them “species of scaup,” probably after muttering something about the sun in their eyes or how far away they are. were. But you probably won’t have to worry about separating them, as the vast majority of scaups crowd into a handful of mussel-rich ponds in Falmouth and Harwich, often in herds of over 500.

Aesthetes will appreciate a good look at hooded mergansers and wood ducks, two of the most beautiful birds in the world, in my opinion, and two species showing increasing trends in census data. Check out the smaller, wooded ponds for those onlookers. Wood ducks are rare, but ponds filled with minnows and crayfish can contain dozens of hooded clusters, as we call them.

When it comes to ponds, the larger ones with herring ranges and vegetated shores are generally the best for waterfowl diversity, housing fish for all three types of mergansers and two loons, mussels for the Scaup and the Ring-necked duck, and aquatic plants for dabblers, such as Mallards, ducks, teals and coots. But there are powerful little ponds that are home to multiple species and sometimes offer more attentive looks, so check them all out. And if you happen to see one of us trained waterfowl enumerators, say hello.

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