Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Rare Sight - Seldom Seen - Watershed #19

This past weekend a group of us took a hike along the western shore of Lake Michigan north of the Gardens at Waters East.  Not a warm day – for sure 20F that is (-6.6C)!  However it was forecasted as the warmest day that will be here for the next week.  Thus it was now or never to check out the rumors regarding the sightings of two very seldom seen ducks in this area.

Hiking along the rock face escarpment walls that drop straight down into the cold waters of Lake Michigan, we found a number of arctic ducks that are here feeding.  For them, this is their winter break to the warm sunny South!  Coming from the Arctic, this must seem to them like it does for me when I go south to Florida to find the “good life” during winter.

Fellow Bird-watchers for the Day

The Long-tailed Duck lives and breeds in the Arctic but flies South during the winter.  The vast majority of these ducks winter in the Baltic Sea area but can also be found along both US coasts.  They are the deepest diving ducks in the world, reaching depths of 200 feet.  An interesting fact is that, unlike many other ducks that use their feet, the Long-tailed Duck uses its wings to propel and move under water.

photo above from web archives

Notice the bird-watcher on the bluff of ice
gives an idea of the height

A second rare duck we spotted was the White-winged Scoter.  It too is an Arctic duck that has made its way here for some “warm season” feeding.  The interesting aspect about this duck is the shape of its bill.  Notice the hump at its base.

photo above from web archive - showing the unique bill formation

There were plenty of other duck spotted along the shore cliffs such as the Greater Scaup and Goldeneye, but to find the very rare Long-tailed Duck and the White-winged Scoter made it a day well worth the cold hike.

 Your's truly - on a cold bird watcher's day

 Long-tail in flight

Note of Interest:
Every photo, repeat, every photo posted on this Blog has been and will continue to be only photos taken on the property of Gardens at Waters East.
The exception will be those posted in this series – Watershed.  For important facts, details, and an overview of the watershed, refer to the posting of July 2, 2011 and the many other “Watershed” postings that follow.  The information there will place all the photos in this special series in a proper context.

 The Watershed - Gardens at Waters East


  1. Whoaaaa!!!! Awesome!!!! That is epic! Congrats!

  2. WOW! Seeing these ducks in winter is a rare treat. I also enjoy the bright blue skies,contrasting nicely with the snow.

  3. Gosh, that's great! I guess it would be worth it to see those rare visitors. Well, sort of worth it. ;) Actually, 20F isn't too bad compared with what we're having now. Ick. Stay warm!

  4. Wonderful photos, Jack! The hike along the western shore of Lake Michigan sounds great!
    Seeing your photo on the bench I can see that it is very, very cold there.
    The Long-tailed Duck looks so lovely.
    Hope you have a good weekend. :)

  5. Hi Jack.

    Wonderful pictures. You surely have some snow. Here it has disappeared again and spring is here allready. 10 degrees plus Celcius - lovely. I hope it will last and we won´t get any more frost or snow.

    I wish you a lovely weekend.
    greetings from Denmark

  6. I like nothing more than walking along the beach in winter. Never know what iIm going to see. Herons have been my companions of late.

  7. Coming from warmer climes, the kind of temperatures you get are outside anything I have experienced. It does look very beautiful, and how wonderful to spot the two ducks.