Waterfowl on the Bruce Wetlands

Although it’s missed by many people driving up Highway 10 it’s a sight worth stopping for. In mid-April, several keen birders from Saugeen Nature drove through sleet and hailstorms to meet at Scone in Bruce County and head north to survey the wetlands for migrating ducks, geese, and their various relatives. Luckily for us the precipitation stayed south of Scone and we were in cool sunshine for most of the trip.

There were Hooded and Common Mergansers as well as a Mute Swan and Canada Geese at pond and associated river at Scone. Around the periphery Red-winged Blackbirds and Meadow larks were singing a confirmation that spring was here despite the weather. As usual, there were also some small dark ducks in the far distance whose identity eluded us. After satisfying ourselves that we had identified all we could, we got in the van and headed north.

At our next stop we saw hundreds of gulls, some of which we could identify as Ring-billed Gulls, and a couple of ravens. We also heard many American Robins – the best-known harbinger of spring. The third stop yielded a treasure trove of species. Wilson’s Snipe were calling and making their characteristic whistling sound with their wings as they dove in their mating dance. A Bald Eagle flew away from us in the distance. A pair of Blue-winged Teal ducks nosed among the reeds and grasses nearby, offering us a nice closeup of their exquisite plumage. To the distant south a group of Pin-tailed Ducks, Mallards and Wigeons swam back and forth in search of food
while nearby Killdeer ran around the shallows. A few keeners walked further along the closed road to a hedgerow and spotted a Pileated Woodpecker really close to them.

Further north again we found Green-winged Teal and heard Mourning Doves, Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Phoebe and Grackles in the surrounding thickets and trees. At another location we spotted Greater Yellowlegs, a Wood Duck and a Cormorant in or over the water, and around the shoreline we heard American Tree Sparrow and Brown-headed Cowbird. Other wetlands were variously being used by a Northern Shoveller pair, Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and Red-headed Ducks. For a finale, two of our members spotted a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron feeding side by side.

The rainbow of colours that various species of duck display is amazing. Rich blues and greens, bright yellows, burgundies and reds. Stark contrasting black and white plumages in fascinating patterns that flash with even more complexity when the ducks are flying. The subtle browns, rusts and mottled blacks of the females’ plumages are also very beautiful. We feel so lucky to be able to see and appreciate the wonder of these fellow creatures who share the land with us.

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