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Along the Lakeshore: The water fowl feeding hole

The lake is frozen everywhere except for my little hole in the ice, kept open by my de-icer churning up warm water from the bottom. I had a fairly large area of ice-free water which has diminished over the last two nights. I guess the water I’m circulating is getting colder and a little bit of ice at a time has inched into my hole. The hole has been a very active attraction for ducks and Tuesday, Feb. 12 was fantastic. Early on there were 50 mallards in 25 pairs, more or less. With more light on the subject, I saw a bunch of redheads, with a few scaup, a pair of canvasbacks and a pair of mergansers. The redheads were actively diving and feeding on grassy weeds. If one of them came up with a bunch of grass, the mallards would try and steal it. The mallards can’t make much more than a two or three foot dabble for food while the redheads can go quite deep.

Last week we had some visitors from western Canada. The zone map in the book says the four western provinces of Canada are the home range for these birds. I thought they were some variety of goldeneye, but sharp-eyed Dave Graham realized that they were first-winter female white-winged scoters.

A whole mess of mallards dropped in and the pond was quite crowded. There were also about eight buffleheads mixed into the action. Some of them hopped out and took a short nap on the adjoining ice. It’s too bad I can’t collect a quarter from each visitor. I watched the show for an hour so and then it was as if someone had blown a whistle. About half the birds got airborne and flew somewhere else more interesting, I guess.

Next year I will get another agitator so that I can clear out both sides of the floating dock. We’ve not had much ice for at least four years and I am lucky that the agitator still runs. It was difficult to start, but it has logged about three weeks of run time. If the nighttime temps get above 33 degrees, I can turn it off until the cold sets in again.

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