Duck, Duck, Goose!

None of the computer programs I have here at work will make a panoramic shot from a series of photos, so in lieu of that, I’ve posted the images side-by-side in hopes of conveying the idea of what the lake we visited yesterday looked like.

This is, on some maps, Thorn Lake, while on other maps it is known as Watkins Lake.  Either way, it is an important bird destination here in Jackson County, located nearly in Washtenaw County, just along Arnold Road, east and south of Napoleon.

Why is this lake so important?  It is a stop-over site for many migrating waterfowl.  Yesterday Gary took the Tuesday Morning Group out to this lake to see what ducks and other waterfowl were currently in residence.

It was a brisk and blustery morning, with rain threatening at any moment, but that didn’t deter this hearty lot.  Armed with winter coats, mittens, field guides and binoculars, they worked on their duck ID skills under the cheerful tutelage of Dahlem’s chief birder, who is manning the spotting scope above.

While everyone oooed and ahhhed over the coots and ruddy ducks, I gushed over the cormorants.  I seem to be in a minority – not many folks seem to think cormorants are cool birds.

Most of the ducks we saw this morning were diving ducks, and they included pied-billed grebes, canvasbacks and redheads, in addition to the aforementioned coots and ruddies.  A pair of dabblers turned up, though:  gadwalls.   All of these birds were mere dots bobbing on the water, so they did not lend themselves well to photography unless one had one of those uber-expensive long lenses.  One does not, so one doesn’t have any photos of the birds.

The lake is split in two by Arnold Road.  To the west the water was mostly bird-free, but we weren’t there twenty minutes when the Canada geese came in from the fields to rest on the water.  Hundreds of geese.  Dare I say thousands?  It’s been many years since I’ve seen geese on this scale.  About half an hour later, these same geese suddenly took to the sky again; Gary suspected there was possibly an eagle nearby, which would constitute a danger to the geese if they weren’t vigilant.

As the flocks flew over head, some to land on the water east of the road, some to keep flying out to the fields, I noticed one goose that looked rather runty by comparison to its companions.  Amazingly, we respotted this goose as the flocks rose again, and Gary said he was fairly sure it was a cackling goose, a “new” species designation for what was formerly the Richardson’s goose, the smallest subspecies of Canada geese.  So, this was kind of an exciting find.

It turns out that yesterday was also the birthday of one of the Tuesday regulars, and his wife brought some lovely chocolate-filled pastries for us to enjoy while we sang “Happy Birthday” to Sam.

If you have Tuesday mornings open, and you’d like to learn more about Michigan’s flora and fauna, come join us at 9:00 next week – newcomers are always welcome.

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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One Response to Duck, Duck, Goose!

  1. Sure wish I could come on a walk with you guys! I’m remembering when I was a kid growing up in Michigan, and my dad would stop at certain lakes and ponds where the geese would come down during migration, we could hear their musical honking from a long ways off.

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