MIGRATING WATERFOWL AND OTHER BIRDS ON LAKE SCUGOG
as at October 5, 2020
Geoff Carpentier, Avocet Nature Services. http://www.avocetnatureservices.com/ “Lake Scugog is a very important staging area for waterfowl in both the spring and fall as they return from their wintering or breeding grounds up north. Migration consumes a lot of energy, so a safe haven with adequate food resources is essential. Many species will linger in the open bays and more vegetated wetlands, finding food and avoiding predators. Birds can be present for days or weeks depending on the species and the season.
Look for the puddle ducks (e.g. Mallards, Black Duck, Pintail, Gadwall, Green and Blue-winged Teal, Wigeon and Wood Ducks) in the shallower marshes, while diving ducks (e.g. Scaup, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Mergansers and Golden-eye) prefer the open water.
The reason has a lot to do with how they feed. The puddle ducks, or dabblers, as they are called, feed by tipping up and grabbing small invertebrates or vegetation just below the surface. Diving ducks dive under water to find prey in deeper habitats. In the spring, the ducks start to return as soon as the ice leaves and will stay well into May to feed and rest before heading north to central and northern Ontario to breed. Most ducks start returning in October on their southbound journey and will often stay until the lake freezes over. A few species such as Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks breed locally and can offer delightful encounters all summer long!” Thanks Geoff for this information.
For more information on how to identify what you might be seeing in the way of ducks check out: https://www.ducks.ca/species/
Comments to us from Robert Stavinga of Kawartha Conservation who is also known for his great local bird pictures of all varieties. “Many ducks spend a good portion of their winter on the great lakes, others head further south into the southern U.S., the gulf coast, Florida and the Atlantic Coast. I have seen Common Loons and Red Breasted Mergansers in Florida. The big migration driver is food availability, so birds migrate to where they can find their preferred food. Songbirds feed primarily on insects so they head south, some as far as South America, only returning to our area when insects emerge again in spring.
As for crossing Lake Ontario, for birds that can swim (ducks, geese etc.) the Lake is not a daunting obstacle, I have seen Goldeneye swimming and feeding at the top of the Horseshoe Falls at the Niagara Gorge in mid winter. Songbirds tend to take the shortest route they can find, that is why Tommy Thompson Park, Presqu’ile Provincial Park and Point Pelee are such great birding spots, they jut out into the Lake and funnel birds in both North and Southbound migration.
Raptors tend to hug the shoreline until they find their way around the Great Lakes, depending on thermals to carry them south and therefore avoiding the direct crossing. Holiday Beach Migration Observatory in Amherstburg counts tens of thousands of raptors passing over on their southbound migration, The Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch at Beamer Conservation Area in Grimsby does the same in spring.” Thank you Rob Stavinga! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVrPL7P6pJ0&feature=youtu.be)
In the meantime: Watch for Great egrets seen many times to the north in marshes on the north end of Lake Scugog. They are not just albino Blue Herons. See: https://www.simcoe.com/opinion-story/8635771-ontario-sees-wave-of-large-wading-birds/ for why we may be seeing more of these beautiful birds.
We will be doing a bigger story on Wood ducks and Hooded Mergansers later on in the season.
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR COMMUNITY:
We are all very busy people; working, commuting, raising children and grandchildren and understanding the needs of the Lake and the variables of lake science is complicated. In addition, Lake Scugog has 132 km. of shoreline and over 3000 houses fronting on the lake and many thousands more in back lots and lands beyond. What exactly needs to be tackled in order to keep our lake as healthy as possible in the face of increased development and consequent reduced forest cover, climate change, invasive species and just the passing of time is our mandate.
What we do to help people understand and act:
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