If I hadn’t taken my camera with me to the back yard when I did, I would have missed my only opportunity to photograph a pair of Hooded Mergansers. That’s why nature photographers always need to be ready.
What are Hooded Mergansers, you ask? Ducks. Very unusual looking small ducks. I wasn’t ready for what I saw in the lake that morning in March. Very close to the edge of our back yard were these two little strange looking ducks, like bath toys. And they didn’t give me much time to act. The moment I emerged from behind the shed into the back yard, they saw me and swam away.
I started snapping photos as fast as I could. My first shot got the colorful male appearing at the top of this post, but the female was hidden behind some weeds. And then I saw her hurrying away, this fuzzy headed duck with very different coloring from the male. My best photo was taken at a distance.
Field Guide Information – Hooded Merganser
As soon as they were out of sight, I never saw them again; I didn’t even see them fly away. It was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. I had no idea what those two ducks were, until I looked them up in my bird books. Neither of my books photos or drawings did justice to what I actually saw.
My Golden book says “Uncommon; in wooded lakes and streams. The male’s black-bordered white cockade and its dark sides set it off from the smaller Bufflehead duck. Female is told by its bushy crest, dark face and body and merganser bill.” Size of a Merganser is shown as 13 inches long, compared to 10 inches for the Bufflehead. I had never seen a Bufflehead, until later that same day!
My Kaufman guide says the Mergansers nest in holes in trees, sometimes in Wood Duck nest boxes. That was interesting to me, since we have a nearby conservation area with Wood Duck nest boxes. This source also says “Male’s elaborate crest, white with black border, may be raised high or flattened.”
I think my photo of the male shows it raised high. And I think God had fun creating this duck.
Discover more about the Hooded Merganser at AllAboutBirds
Related Post: Bufflehead Ducks are Cute Little Divers