TRR photos by Scott Rando

Buffleheads arrive in the fall during the latter part of October. They can be seen on lakes until the water freezes. This species is a migrant; they head back to northern Canada in the middle of spring. Buffleheads are also diving ducks, but this species favors aquatic invertebrates and plant material.

Web-footed friends

Watching wildlife in the winter is a little more of a challenge than it is during the rest of the year. For one, there is the weather. You have to drive or hike to where you want to view wildlife, so let’s hope

Mergansers are present year-round in areas
where there is open water. In the winter, they
are one of the most common waterfowl seen.
These are females; males are white with dark
heads. These diving ducks forage on fish.

the snow is not too deep or the roads too icy to cause problems with your trip. The cold is another battle; you will have to dress accordingly if you are going to be outdoors for any length of time.

The biggest factor is that there’s less wildlife to see. Many birds have migrated away, and many other animals are either hibernating or are less active as they conserve energy, venturing out only to forage and eat.

Take heart though, as there are places to see some critters, if you know where to look. Some species, as a matter of fact, can be seen only during the winter, and in our area some ducks are a good example of that. The lakes are frozen over for the most part, so a good spot to start is along the flat-water portions of the river. Ducks are present year-round on the river, but only during the colder months will you see species like the bufflehead, a tiny duck that migrates down from Canada in the fall. Other species, such as green-winged teals and pie-billed grebes can be seen during migration times or over the winter. Other areas to find winter waterfowl include the Mongaup Falls area and Plank Road, which runs along the Mongaup River, the same spots where wintering eagles frequent.

As with other types of bird-watching, binoculars or a spotting scope are a big help in identifying waterfowl. You may see some unusual species, so a bird identification guide can be useful. Photographing waterfowl is not too difficult in most cases, and they can get very close if you stay still and use your car or other cover for a blind. Enjoy the next few weeks. This is the transition time for waterfowl, as they start moving from winter to summer habitats.


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