In our house, if a lake is big enough so that we can’t see across to the far shore, then we’re allowed to call it “the sea”.
Many ducks, we’re pleased to report, agree with our interpretation. In winter we have as company several species of ducks who ordinarily shun frozen lakes and typically hang out along the New England coast. The open waters of Lake Ontario, they seem to believe, are as good as the sea.
In recent months groups of Goldeneye, Scaup, and Long-Tailed Ducks have been visible off the coast in Scarborough, Pickering, Whitby and here in Port Darlington – though they don’t typically get within good camera range.
On a recent excursion to Cranberry Marsh, at lake’s edge south of Whitby, the diving ducks kept their usual distance but a pair of Trumpeter Swans swam right up to the shore.
These beautiful birds had been hunted nearly to extinction but are now making a steady recovery, thanks in no small part to determined work by Ontario conservationists over the past four decades.
The Trumpeters’ resurgence is apparently not welcomed by the Mute Swans who have taken over much of the habitat for large swans.
Mute Swans will also chase each other or will chase Canada Geese – but there was no obvious reason why all these geese suddenly decided they had to take to the air.
At home in Port Darlington, the north winds have been cold enough to shape some shore ice.
Where waves bounce against ice, feeding conditions seem especially attractive to true diving ducks.
Though most of their number stay well off-shore, one or two Greater Scaup (above) and Common Goldeneye (below, with Mallard) have plied the narrow harbour channel recently.
By the heat of the morning sun, as steam rises off waves, fishing near the breakwater is well-nigh irresistible.
Swells break against the shore ice, the water churns and foams – and now and then a Long-Tailed Duck or two ventures close to play in the surf.
That’s winter at its finest, down by the seashore.
Photo at top of page: Scratching the Surface (click here for full-screen view)