Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Magnificent Eight

On a Misty Morning the First Mergansers Arrive
The Hawk Likes the Pond Food, Too
A Female Checking Out the 'Hood
A Couple of Flashy Males
Where Mergansers and Horses Meet
Grenny Scored a Gopher! Todd Carries the Trophy
Party on the Water
Males Flash and Splash
White catches my eye easily. It flashes like a beacon from Elmira Pond, and that's exactly what it is -- a neon sign for sex. The Magnificent Eight have arrived.

Male mergansers in full mating regalia are hot to behold. At least, I hope females flying overhead in the great northern migration think so. How can the ladies miss all those flashing inflated white heads on one pond?

Perhaps they long for more than a healthy hood in a male.

Do prospecting female mergansers consider the neighborhood? After all, these flashy males promise to abandon them when junior mergansers arrive. The males deflate their hoods and move out.

The females school the juveniles in the art of fishing and eagle avoidance.

So while the males are partying in March on Elmira Pond, singing, "Hey baby, hey baby, hey..." and dancing on water with wings splayed and waves kicked up into a crest, the females are looking beyond the boys and at the 'hood.

The Purcell Trench cradles Elmira Pond in a swath of glaciated land. In comparison to the massive bodies of water left behind by glaciers -- Lake Pend Oreille, Kootenai  River, Priest Lake, the Clark Fork -- it is humble. "Bog" is often the name it receives.

Yet, the water deserves at least pond status. It might be spring fed or merely left-over glacial drainage. It has deep holes and floating islands of mat. Of course, it has rich layers of peat that read like a biological book, telling the stories of life, decay and pollen.

The female mergansers want what the males are enjoying -- food. Hooded mergansers are voracious diving fowl, eating fish, frogs and even rodents. I welcome any creature on this pond to all-you-can-eat gophers. Many give testimony to the tasty treat -- eagles like them; the hawk likes them; the cat loves them; and at last, my dogs have learned to catch them.

Mergansers are welcome to eat gophers, too.

It must be a robust year for pond food to support eight hooded males. The Canada goose couple has returned. At least I like to pretend it is the same couple. They are re-nesting on goose island already. There's one ringed-neck duck couple. No buffleheads or widgeons, yet.

It's early in the season.

But it's the first time I've seen so many flashy white males on the pond. Among them is a single female with her crested mohawk. At least one female likes the potential summer digs and the current menu of food.

Will seven others join in or will seven water-tapping, hood flapping males miss out on spring love? Nonetheless it proves to be a good push into spring. I've missed watching the pond.

The soap opera has begun; March Madness returns with the Magnificent Eight.


  1. Boys in the Hood... a made-for-the-pond movie in the making. This is your very own cable network: The Bog Channel. Glad I have a subscription to it. Isn't March Madness invigorating? I've got front row tickets at center court. I'm watching some pretty impressive nest building at the moment.

    1. Ha, ha! Thank you for subscribing to the bog channel! Yes, March Madness is for the bird brains among us with season tickets to the nesting games! How are the bluebirds?

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