Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Icing on the Cake

Taking advantage of the recent and now fleeting, grrrr thaw, I arrived at the west end of Lake Ontario at sunrise a few days ago to spend some time with one of my favorite winter waterfowl species, the Long-tailed Duck. I had no idea how successful I'd be at finding open water, let alone close views of these little darlings, but in the end it was a tremendous day. 

The early sun provided a pastel reflection in the water next to this handsome male that was quite close to me in the inner harbour:

The female is quite pretty in her own right, despite the obvious differences from her male counterpart, including dark wings and a dark bill, and she lacks a long tail:

A comparison view of both sexes:

The male was quite curious as I watched him from my perch on the boulders: 

Preening after sunrise:

The female foraged for food, remaining submerged three to four times as much as she was on the surface:

My patience was rewarded when Golden Hour arrived:

The male seemed to delight in the new day:

I'm a baker so I always think of white icing or meringue dripping off the back of the male!

 He swam in closer to investigate me: 

Parading around in front of me, it was a joy to see such an alert posture.

Notice his long tail, the white head with a buffy eye patch, the dark cheek, and best of all, that adorable black bill with a touch of bubblegum pink!

The female was less curious about me.. she continued to frequently dive: 

By now we'd been together for half an hour... the male decided it was time to move out onto the lake where the other members of his flock had been since my arrival at dawn: 

Walking on water, what a thrill to see him so close taking off:

My last view of him:

I continued west to the lift bridge in Burlington where my first close views of White-winged Scoters were seen:

The Long-tailed Ducks were plentiful in the canal where more traditional distant views of them were seen as I listened to them serenading:

It sure looks like a huge amount of fun to hang out with these playful sea ducks!

I did my best to capture record shots in sequence of a distant male as he made his usual rough landing: 

A lone Trumpeter Swan, tagged as K50, flew by: 

More White-winged Scoters approached me as I hid against a wall on the ice-covered pier:

Flight shots of Long-tailed Ducks are ridiculously difficult, somewhat reminiscent of Snow Buntings a few weeks ago:

More fun times with these characters:

I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or this male that snuck up on me!

Another graceful landing:

But they recover quickly from those rough landings and parade around:

Despite this being a blurry flight shot, I found interesting to see the "white icing" feathers in action:

Long-tailed Ducks rock from side to side while in flight with almost a twisty motion, hence why it's a challenge to get sharp photos of them (but I'll still keep trying!):

Still waters:

Take-off EH:

A dreamy lighthouse reflection:

The boys chased the girl, so I gave them some privacy and left:

A few more stops along the lake yielded an unexpected "lifer tree" for me in Oakville, an intriguing Paperbark Maple (thanks, Justin!). The curious texture and warm tones of the bark caught my eye:  

But the icing on the cake was spending time with the Long-tailed Ducks before they return to their breeding grounds in northern Canada. I'll miss their beauty, their perkiness, and their melodious yodeling.

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