Thursday, April 3, 2014

Peeps on the Pond

Wigeons Cluster in the Distant Pool
Wigeons Visit the Trenches
Powerful Dabblers
Flirty Male
Tails to the Morning Sun
Oops...I Don't Think She's Looking at His Display
Wigeons and Goose
Hungry for More Than Pond Plants
Standing still I cock my head like the dogs do to hear better.'s the wigeons. Even before I read about the American wigeon on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, I decided that this Elmira Pond visitor sounded like a squeaky toy. And that is exactly how the experts describe the whistle of a wigeon.

I like to think of them as my "peeps."

Wigeons are among the first to arrive on Elmira Pond following the ice melt. Northern Idaho is their most southern border for breeding grounds. Author, Randall St. Germain who lives further north in Canada, has impressive close-up shots of Ducks on Ice on his blog, including American wigeons.

With a white stripe and green head patch, male wigeons are also wooing their ladies with tail wags, water hops and wing flapping. Among the whistling peeps I see water dances and splashes from the western side of the pond.

More skittish than the bold little buffleheads, wigeons cluster in a group and stay far across the pond. Just a few mornings ago I watched the entire group flap into flight, circling like a small feathered whirlwind. What looks like six or eight wigeons on the pond materializes into twice that number in the air.

An eagle gliding low over the valley spooked them into flight. Eagles hunt ducks. Soon the danger passed and wigeons returned to flutter and dabble in their favorite far pool.

One amorous and hungry wigeon couple is swimming up an old peat trench. If you look carefully at Elmira Pond, you can see several squared swaths dug out of the east shoreline where peat miners harvested the bog matter to sell. I don't know much about the process but I do know that it takes hundreds, even thousands of years to build up peat in a bog.

That speaks volumes of Elmira Pond's age.

Mining seemed minimal in former years, yet the swaths remain as trenches favored by the Canada goose couple. Of course, that pair is fearless--former hockey players--so they don't mind swimming and dabbling so close to the house. But I'm surprised to see a wigeon couple.

Up close the male's green head patch glistens with iridescence, the color of a mallard's. They dabble powerfully, almost diving straight down as they tip, tails to the morning sun. They bounce like a bobber with a fish on the line, going after aquatic plants with gusto. The male flutters his wings in between feeding, letting the female know that's he's interested in more than food.

Such is spring on the pond with peeps.


  1. Spring is perhaps best defined by appetite. Hunger brings forth life. I appreciate the hunger you have for paying deep attention, thereby appeasing the hunger we have for such insight.

    1. Yes, I think we all hunger after the long winter. We want to flap our wings and waggle our tails, eat fresh greens. I had a hankering for spring peas the other night. Maybe that's what the pond's plants taste like to ducks. I always love your insights and how you dive right in and find more!

  2. Oh, I love them! Thank you for introducing me to the wigeons! They are awesome. Now, where is my lawn chair?

    1. It's under the still-barren apple tree beside my chair! I get tickled every time I go outside and hear them squeaky-peeping.