I'm sure you've seen that bumper sticker; "My Worst Day of Fishing is better than my best day at work". Well, my axiom would be a "ho hum day of birding still gives me great joy with learning about mother nature." Saturday I visited Lake Natoma, everything I shot was at too great a distance to provide the type of images I yearn for, so I shoot anyway, for the record, and for practice. While editing back home I still find and learn interesting facts about our animal neighbors.
For instance, I did not know that mergansers gathered in such large groups. (A large group of ducks sometimes called a "raft".)
Common Merganser - Natomas Bluffs 0206 I was mesmerized as I watched this large "Raft" of Mergansers swim together tightly as if a raft, first heading upwind, then downwind, and then all of a sudden they all dove underwater. I thought it might have been the Eagle that caused them to dive, but no, I think they were hunting as a pack. Hmmm, interesting. I tried looking it up on Audubon and Wikipedia but could find no references to this behavior. I also noticed that the group was mostly female Mergansers by a large ratio, like maybe 10:1, they are the red headed ones. There are some males among the raft, they are the green and white ones. Most of the males winter farther North. After their clutches are hatched the males migrate up north leaving the females to raise the brood, returning in the spring again for mating season. Mergansers are a type of duck, also called a sawtooth as their beaks have serrated edges, designed to hold on to the slippery fish they hunt.
Natomas Bluffs 0190 A raft of Common Mergansers - Natomas Bluffs 600mm 0270 Natomas Bluffs 600mm 0221 Natomas Bluffs 600mm 0227 Mergansers are underwater hunters, they eat fish, swimming fast and chasing down their prey. I never imagined they hunted in packs, maybe not unlike the American Pelican which coordinates its movements with it's "Squadron" herding fish into the shallows where they then scope them up with their pouches.
Also spotted at the lake was an Eared Grebe, a red-tailed Hawk, a pair of red-shouldered hawks, and our most notable resident, the Bald Eagle, who flew from his perch, swooped down to the lake, grabbed his breakfast and perched on a pine limb across the lake.
I guess it wasn't a bad day for birding by any means.