It’s a magical time of year out there, birders. As the temperatures continue to rise, we are again treated to snow and ice melt as well as some new arrivals from the skies.
There have been some early reports of robins, red-winged blackbirds and many other of our spring and summer residents already this month and we expect much more over the coming weeks.
While we do talk a lot about our migrating songbirds, this is also an extremely special time of year for those who love watching ducks and waterfowl. Here in the Ottawa area, we are treated to many duck species throughout the entire season but this time of year is special in that we are treated to a rare glimpse of some other species making their way through our area headed for their breeding and nesting areas in northern Ontario.
Affectionately known as “ice-out ducks” as Bob refers to them as, it’s a great time of year to get along the rivers and lakes here in the Ottawa Valley, set up a spotting scope and watch the spring spectacle.
Species typically seen this time of year as the ice is on its way out include Goldeneye, Redheads, Bufflehead, Mergansers and many others. As opposed to many of the puddle duck species we are used to, many of these species belong to the diver duck family and as their name suggests, they put on quite the show.
Where to Find Ice Out Ducks
As we said, stick to the waterways and luckily for us here in Ontario, there is no shortage of them. Here in the Ottawa area, the Ottawa River is a great place to start and can offer great viewing opportunities within city limits.
Set up with either a spotting scope or a good set of binoculars along the shore and view the groups of ducks from the distance. They will typically congregate along the shoreline, where possible, on the edge of the ice. It is here that you will find them diving beneath the ice surface, feeding, preening and even displaying ahead of the pending breeding season.
Outside of our area, Presqu’ile Provincial Park along the shores of Lake Ontario is perhaps the best place in the province to view this phenomenon. During their Waterfowl Weekend during mid-March, it is not uncommon to spot upwards of 20 different species.