Red-breasted mergansers in the waters between Hadley Point and Lamoine. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTH GRIERSON

Nature: Even ducks have bad hair days 

The mail is always surprising. Recently, I received nice photos of red-breasted mergansers in the waters between Hadley Point and Lamoine. These mergansers look as if they were having a ‘bad hair day with their fluffy feathers blown askew by the wind. They are very handsome diving ducks – not to be missed. The females seen were greyish with a crested rufouscolored head. They also have a large square white patch on the wings, but it is the windblown reddish crest that you would notice first on this duck. 

If the males are nearby, they are quite different in color, for the male has a black head glossed with green and it is conspicuously crested. The male also has a wide white collar and a red bill. They are very nice ducks to see on the salt water at this time of year. You might want to consider going over to Hadley Point or to Lamoine Beach or any other beach areas to look for them. Watching shorebirds or ducks from your car can be very rewarding at any time of year. Take a winter picnic with you! A great many red-breasted mergansers are readily seen in this area from September through April. 

Fifty years ago, this duck was one to look for only in the salt water, but in recent years it has been possible to find it on local ponds. The common merganser is frequently found nesting on local ponds such as Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond. 

A lone snow goose has been a bird of interest for locals in Southwest Harbor for several years now. Its mate was killed on the highway near the Manset Corner, but it has stayed and survived several Maine winters. This particular snow goose is a plucky bird and seems to associate with local mallards in Southwest Harbor as well as with the Canada geese in Somesville. All last summer it hung out with some puddle ducks in Lamoine. I even got a phone call one day from a friend in Floridawhose daughter lives in Lamoine, telling me he thought I’d like to know. The goose is now back in Southwest Harbor. At one time, it was helped out by human friend during the harsh winters, but this good Samaritan has passed away, so the bird is on its own. 

The snow goose is an Arctic bird. Its Latin name, hyperborean, means “from beyond the north wind. Its normal breeding place is the more northern part of the Arctic Archipelago of northern Canada and Greenland. Southwest Harbor is a long way from home. 

When I looked up snow geese and read about them, I found that they are dimorphicwhich means they can come in different colors. Some of them are white, as the bird in Southwest Harbor is, and sometimes they are dark blue. Their normal life span is about five years so ‘our’ goose is getting old. 

In January, the ice fishing beginsSalmontrout and pickerel become sought after treasures brought up through the ice. It is a cold sport, but it is irresistible for a large number of people on MDI! Beneath the ice, the salmon, trout and pickerel are moving and fishermen watch their tip-ups signaling that they have caught something. 

Eagles will sometimes circle in the air overhead watching this sport or will sit in a tree nearby waiting for a chance to grab some bait or freshly caught fish. Such close encounters with eagles are pretty special. A fisherman’s feet may be wet and his whole body may be cold, but the hardy souls who enjoy this sport go out again and again trying to capture an elusive fish. 

The salmon the fishermen are after is the landlocked salmon, an important game fish. These salmon hatch in fresh water, usually in streams, and many spend some time there, but they eventually move down to the sea where they live and grow for several yearsdepending on the species. They will return to their home streams to spend the autumn. If the salmon (Salmo salaris landlocked one caught in Long Pond, Echo Lake and Eagle Lake, it is generally smaller, and if it is a stocked fish, a lower fin is missing. These fish are usually 10-20 inches long and weigh from 2 to maybe even 3 pounds. 

When you are out and about now, look at everything large and small and let me know what you are seeing. There have been many snowy owl reports these days and many evening grosbeaks are coming to feeders. 

Send questions, reports and photos to [email protected]. 


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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