As a birder residing within the Northeast, I really like to look at the seasons change as a result of each brings its personal joys. Within the spring I search for migratory songbirds of their dazzlingly recent breeding plumages. Throughout the summer time I spend lazy days watching herons fish and hummingbirds zip between flowers. Fall is a time for sipping tea from a steamy thermos as southbound hawks stream by. After which there’s winter—and winter is particular.
Winter is Bizarre Duck Time.
Many duck species nest at excessive latitudes, elevating their younger in boreal forest wetlands or on the Arctic tundra. However quickly the abundance of the transient northern summer time offers strategy to the tough, nutrient-poor winter. The geese head to hotter shores. Since my native water our bodies not often ice over, these birds can spend their winters diving, feeding, resting, courting, and paddling. Rafts of them fill each ice-free patch of water, from ponds and creeks to ocean bays. And that’s when the present begins.
I keep in mind the primary time I skilled it. I grew up in part of Canada the place the lakes and even a lot of the rivers freeze over; it was nice for skating, however not for geese. However a bit of over a decade in the past, I headed for hotter shores, touchdown on the Northeast coast of the US. In November I walked out on a seaside and skilled my binoculars on some drab-looking birds bobbing on the waves. I used to be gobsmacked. Staring again at me have been the moon-pale eyes of Surf Scoters, their pinprick pupils making them look completely shocked. They wielded bulbous candy-corn payments. These weren’t the atypical Mallards of my childhood. They have been magical.
Since many geese select their mates within the winter, they arrive in crisp courtship plumage. They’re a riot of colours, shapes, sounds, and unusual behaviors. Purple-breasted Mergansers have wild bedhead and flash crocodile smiles, their payments edged with tooth-like serrations. Northern Shovelers huddle collectively and swim in circles to dabble with outsized payments. Male Hooded Mergansers increase huge black-and-white crests like sails on a ship. From time to time, a uncommon male King Eider waltzes onto the scene, displaying off a mint-green face and a bulging orange plate above its invoice. Everybody dives, grooms, scuffles, honks, and bellows. I really feel like I’m watching the famously extravagant birds-of-paradise of Papua New Guinea, besides that I’m so, so chilly. (It’s value it.)
That is what I name Bizarre Duck Time. It’s not a technical time period. However birders like to make up our personal slang. After we encounter a species that’s new to us, we exclaim, “That’s a lifer!” We regularly have a nemesis hen (a species we hold lacking out on), and we drop the whole lot to search for megas (actually uncommon birds). Every of us has our personal non-public terminology, too. Bizarre Duck Time started as a goofy phrase I mentioned solely to myself. Then I made a cartoon about it and shared it on-line. Other people picked up the expression, and now I meet individuals who use it with out figuring out the place it got here from. It’s so cool. I’m grateful that my non-public silliness has traveled far and located new and welcoming shores.
To be sincere, although, I really feel judgmental calling any hen “bizarre.” Geese are good in each approach. As somebody who goes to the seaside within the winter to shiver and squint by means of icy winds at distant birds, it’s clear that I’m the odd one, evolutionarily talking. Weirdness is relative. We should always have a good time all of our hobbies, loves, and quirks, whether or not we’re birding in a blizzard or wooing a mate with a show of hoots. A little bit strangeness is a present, irrespective of the season.