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It’s In Your Nature: March and April — waterfowl time

look forward to a good ice cover on three local lakes as winter progresses.

I know that on Beltzville Lake in particular, the lingering ice cover keeps boats from accessing the lake and as the numerous coves slowly thaw, the spring migrating ducks “roll in.”

That is a normal winter scenario. Not this year though. This winter was the warmest January on record resulting in almost no ice cover. I suspect that my bird list will take a hit this year and most likely I’ll record 6 or 8 less species.

Wild Creek and Penn Forest Reservoirs won’t get any boat traffic, but without ice cover, the ducks can be feeding almost anywhere on these large bodies of water, making it harder to find them. However, I will, and I’m suggesting you also take a closer look at the many local farm ponds to find a few duck species stopping there to rest and feed.

Dabbling ducks like green-winged teal, black ducks, mallards and pintails find the ponds good feeding areas. If they are disturbed little, they may feed there for a few days. I have been observing some redheads, pintails, and American wigeon at a few of these unfrozen ponds.

The Lehigh River, Mahoning, Pohopoco, and Lizard Creek will hold a few common mergansers until trout season begins in early April. And don’t forget to look for the pretty wood ducks dropping in to any of these areas, and if they find the opportune nesting trees, they may stay there and breed.

So, keep alert on your D & L walks, country drives, and nature hikes for the best time of the year to see a great variety of ducks.

I have included a number of photos of ducks you can see and I’ll even test you on a few to identify. Good luck and get out there in nature.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False: Common loons and common mergansers can only take flight from the water’s surface, not from the ground.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: The bald faced hornet nests you see in the bare trees do not hold overwintering insects. The queen hornet was bred last fall and she too survives winter’s below freezing temperatures by hiding in protected areas until spring when she will begin the nest building and starting a new colony.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

Common loons will begin arriving in our area about the first week of March. A few stragglers may still be seen on our local Lakes until early May.
Another diving duck, the horned grebe, also makes its appearance about the same time as the loons.
More likely found on shallow lakes or ponds, the gaudy and appropriately named American shoveler, may stop by on its northward migration from the salt marsh areas of the East Coast.
The American wigeon (once named the baldpate) is a dabbling duck that may winter here or “stop by” on its northward spring migration. (most likely on smaller ponds/lakes)
Less common than its cousin, the green winged teal, blue winged teal (pictured here) can appear on almost any local waterway, but is not very common. Both teal species are one of our smallest ducks.
A stealthy approach allowed me to glimpse a female and male wood duck on an East Penn Township pond. They are one of the few waterfowl species to breed locally.