Feathered friends abound in ‘fowl’ weather

Feb 11, 2020

Those looking to see a variety of wildlife don’t need to go far out of their way.

On a walk led by Wareham Land Trust Stewardship coordinator Mike Perrin on Saturday, amateur and experienced birders spotted a variety of species on the Wareham River behind Merchants Way, including Bufflehead, American Black Duck, and Goldeneye.

On the spit of land across the river, American Black Duck and Mallard were cautiously untucking their heads and preparing for the blustery day.

Perrin says that to identify birds, new birders should look out for the size, color pattern, behaviour, and location of the bird. But watching birds doesn’t have to mean identifying them -- it can also be a reason to spend time outdoors, meet human and feathered neighbors, and just see what there is to see.

Here are some ducks to look out for that were spotted on Saturday:

American Black Duck are large and similar in size to mallards, with a distinctive chocolate brown color. The ducks are dabblers, meaning that they find food by putting their tails in the air and nosing through the mud for vegetation. Male Mallard have emerald green heads, and both males and females have distinctive blue-purple patches on their wings. Mallard are also dabblers.

A Red-Breasted Merganser, a diving duck, was also exploring the river. Perrin said that diving ducks look for food by floating on the water and looking down, like they are snorkeling. Then, when they spot a fish, they dive to catch it in their sharp bills. Merganser have distinctive mohawk-like feathers on their heads.

Several Bufflehead -- a petite species of diving duck that winters in Wareham -- were spotted. Female and immature male Bufflehead have sweet white circles on their chins, while adult males have white patches on black heads, and white flanks contrasting with black backs.

Common Goldeneye are easily spotted due to their (of course) golden eyes, and are also winter visitors to the area.

At the Onset Pier, a good spot to find waterfowl that prefer the open ocean to the protected waters of the river, two long-tailed ducks were spotted out on the water. The diving ducks have unusually long, pointed tails.

The group also saw a Common Loon on the water. Loon are large diving birds with intricate black and white patterning, and have solid bones. They will also fight to the death, although the Loon spotted Saturday seemed to be having a peaceful day on its own.

On Wed., Feb. 19, learn about winter waterfowl from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Wareham River, behind the Jug Shop at 221 Main St. On March 7 and 18, learn about Backyard Winter Residents from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Douglas S. Westgate Conservation Area, 29 Papermill Road. Register online at warehamlandtrust.org/events.