Thursday, March 20, 2014

The St. Marys State Fish Hatchery...March 17, 2014

March 17 was a beautiful sunny day though the temperature only rose into the lower 40s F.  Tom and I decided to drive to the St. Marys State Fish Hatchery.  This is a good place to bird from the van.  It is not a place to hike since it is a working fish hatchery, not a park.

Because we have had a cold winter, most of the fish-rearing ponds still have a lot of ice covering them.  The last time we were at the hatchery we saw the staff opening up areas of water close to the shore of several ponds.  Tom's guess was this was to provide oxygen to the fish.  We also saw another machine whose purpose seemed to be stirring up the water which would be another way of oxygenating the water.  Whatever the fish hatchery reason, the result was that there was open water for the migrating ducks.  The open areas were close enough to the paved drive that Tom got some good photos.  Because the sun was shining, the iridescent feathers were gleaming with colors.

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) Length 13 -15 inches; Wingspan 21 inches

This year was the first time I ever saw the green and purple sheen of the feathers on the head and neck of the male.  That's because this is the first year I've ever seen the bird in the sunshine.  Usually the days we spot them are overcast, and  lots of times the day is misty or rainy as well.  The Bufflehead is Ohio's smallest duck.  We see it in migration but it does not nest here.

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  Length 16 - 24 inches; Wingspan 24 inches

This is the first time we have seen this bird this close.  It was, perhaps, three van lengths from us.  Usually they are on the far side of any pond or lake when we spot them.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) Length 15 - 18 inches; Wingspan 25 inches

It was fun to see the beautiful blue-billed lesser scaup.  It, too, has an iridescent head that shines beautifully.  This bird is a regular migrant in large flocks but does not nest in Ohio.

I am happy Tom got the following photo.  I feasted my eyes on the beautiful heads of the male Redheads.  There is part of the Lesser Scaup flock in the photo also.

Redhead (Aythya americana) Length 18-22 inches; Wingspan 29 inches and Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

I cropped the photo above to enlarge the cluster of Redheads.

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