Pat’s Bits & Pieces – Spring is just ‘ducky’

April 11, 2014

PatWell my mystery duck floating in the river has been identified.

Bob Musser of Waterfowl Decoys in Farwell, a carver and collector, stopped in the office Monday with a hand-carved decoy of the “Common Goldeneye,” which is a new one for this birdwatcher. He said the duck is also called the “Whistler,” because of the sound of its wings in flight.

I want to thank him for helping us out and also thanks to those of you who emailed us the answer too. Ed Koski also identified the duck as a male Common Goldeneye. Bob Guiliani wrote that he believes the duck is a Bufflehead.

I believe it is a Common Goldeneye. After checking again in my trusty “Birds of America” book, I saw that what from a distance looked like a black head, turns out to be a dark green with a large white spot on the cheek. They are commonly found in lakes, large rivers and bays. I have no idea what this one was doing in our little stream, but there was no sign of a mate for him, and I haven’t seen him since.

I didn’t find it in the book until after I knew what it was, since it wasn’t listed under ducks at all. Seems they generally winter in this area and spend their summers in Canada.

After I said I hadn’t seen any this spring, the Mallard pairs have appeared again, and are cruising around, I assume looking for suitable nesting sites. We also occasionally see loons on the river. It is fun to watch them dive for their

Common Goldeneye carving by Bob Musser

Common Goldeneye carving
by Bob Musser


The geese also seem to be back in the area for the season, although they generally spend most of their land-time on the pond just east of us. Other water visitors we have seen over the years include a huge swan that tried it’s best to scare us out of our own yard one summer. It claimed ‘our territory’ while we were enjoying a campfire out in the yard and I had to chase it away with a broom. Our now disceased feline Callie made a heroic attempt to drive it off, but that bird had no fear of one little cat and Callie soon was the one being “chased.”

Speaking of being chased, Peanut, who at 4.5 pounds considers herself the guardian of the place, ran off a huge possum the other evening. Of course we were yelling at her to stop chasing. If that critter had turned around instead of running away she would have been mincemeat. She certainly was proud of herself after that little incident.

Living out here on the Tobacco, we seem to attract lots of wildlife. Remember I said no skunks so far? Well that has changed too. Jack spotted an unusual one out under the feeder the other evening. I didn’t see it but he told me it was mostly white. Sure enough next day there were little holes all over the place where he/she had been digging for those yummy grubs, of which we seem to have a good supply, as evidenced by the sudden appearance of mole hills everywhere.

We have been watching for the return of “Peppie,” but haven’t seen that one again yet either, and I am watching closely since I’m really not anxious for Peanut to try and chase that one away…

Another group frequenting the bird feeder this spring are the honeybees. I don’t know why they are attracted to it, but they have been all over our sunflower seed feeder for the past few days. I keep watching for a swarm in one of the trees. We had one once a few years ago and called a local bee-keeper to come and get it.

Of course the usual crowd of feathered moochers are all here too. They don’t seem to like having to share lunch with the bees much though.

The chipmunks and squirrels are back again too, and they and the birds are emptying the feeders almost every other day.

We finally found the suet feeder that the raccoon dragged off over a week ago. He/she managed to break the chain it was hanging on and drag it out behind the deck in the back yard. Jack says he is going to get a heavier chain…and maybe set some traps…

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