With some exceptions, such as the Horned Grebe, it’s been a bird-slim winter so far on the North Basin, with migrant waterfowl arrivals way below last year. At least that’s my impression. But I may just be reflecting the age of my eyes; others report seeing Greater Scaup in a line of at least 500 in the past week. In any case, I saw a scant raft of Ruddy Ducks, just a dozen or so, floating, most of them asleep, about two thirds of the way south on the North Basin on Friday morning. That’s an improvement over the handful that arrived in December, but it’s a far cry from the raft of about a hundred that we saw a year earlier. Maybe more will come in time.
These birds spend the summer and do their breeding in the “pothole” region of the northern Midwest, an area gripped last week in the Arctic Vortex. They did well to get out in time.
I wonder how birds know when the weather in their breeding environment in the spring is tolerable enough for them to return.