Good morning, mergansers

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Some diving-duck “snowbirds” were swimming just off the west causeway park under the Ernest Lyons Bridge, Sewall’s Point this morning.

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There were eight of these Red-breasted Mergansers. Here is a rare moment when all of them were on top of the water, not diving.

Fun fact from Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

Red-breasted Mergansers need to eat 15 to 20 fish per day, which researchers suggest means they need to dive underwater 250–300 times per day or forage for 4–5 hours to meet their energy needs.

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The Red-breasted Merganser is a shaggy-headed diving duck also known as the “sawbill”; named for its thin bill with tiny serrations on it that it uses to keep hold of slippery fish.

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Range Map from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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The winter months are the best time to go looking for a Red-breasted Merganser, when they are fairly common along coastal waters in the United States and Mexico. Look for them in sheltered estuaries and bays swimming along in small groups or by themselves. Red-breasted Mergansers forage near the shore, so a spotting scope may not be needed to get good looks.

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Snowy Egret too, brightening this windy rainy gray day.

GBH nest

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“Honey, I’m home!”

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My husband and I watched a pair of Great Blue Herons yesterday, on a nest in a cypress tree in a man-made pond near the Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach.

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It seems a bit early for nesting season, but I suppose these birds know what they’re doing.

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Funny to see these big wading birds up in a tree. They are the largest herons in North America.

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Male Great Blue Herons collect much of the nest material, gathering sticks from the ground and nearby shrubs and trees, and from unguarded and abandoned nests, and presenting them to the female. She weaves a platform and a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, mangrove leaves, or small twigs. Nest building can take from 3 days up to 2 weeks; the finished nest can range from a simple platform measuring 20 inches across to more elaborate structures used over multiple years, reaching 4 feet across and nearly 3.5 feet deep.

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Like other herons they often breed in colonies, with many other nests and pairs nearby, but these two appeared to be alone.

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Beautiful plumage.

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It was a sunny day, warming into the lower 70s. It felt good after a few cold, windy days.

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Some wings!

Peace and quiet

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White Ibis in the mangroves.

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We walked out on a new boardwalk though mangroves to the Indian River Lagoon, at the Clifton S. Perry Beach on Hutchinson Island. This park opened very recently, just south of Santa Lucea Beach and north of the House of Refuge.

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Bird on a board.

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Grubby ibis.

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I would never have seen these birds without boardwalk access to this spot that is otherwise inhospitable to humans. The birds did seem a bit surprised to see us there. They can be quite bold beggars at Indian RiverSide Park, walking right up to people and looking for a handout.

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But maybe sometimes they like a people-free place. I tried not to disturb them too much!

Duck, duck, goose?

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I visited some Egyptian Geese chicks yesterday, at a pond next to Ocean Blvd in Stuart.

Or should I call them goslings even though Egyptian “geese” are really ducks?

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The Egyptian goose is believed to be most closely related to the shelducks (genus Tadorna) and their relatives, and is placed with them in the subfamily Tadorninae. It is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen, which also contains closely related prehistoric and recently extinct species.

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Ma and Pa and two of the five young ones.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife says that the nonnative Egyptian Geese are present in Florida but not confirmed to be breeding. I think it’s time to update that assessment.

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I guess these chicks are really closer to “juveniles” or “immatures” as their feathers are changing from fluffy down to real adult feathers.

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After nibbling green grass they launched onto the water to nibble some pond weeds.

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My Florida birdwatching Christmas carol would include “five geese a-swimming.”

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I watched these birds for about 15 minutes. They tolerated my presence and even came closer, though the adults chased off the ibises that came near. I guess they have probably been fed by people and competed for that food with ibises.

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Scruffy little molting bird.

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Splendid plumage, shining in the sun.

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Proud-looking goose.

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I’m fascinated by the beautiful feathers.

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