[midvalleybirds] Duck's memories

Frank Kolwicz fhkolwicz1 at gmail.com
Tue Nov 12 18:48:15 PST 2019

I've been observing and photographing winter ducks at a private pond 
north of Baskett Slough for about 4 years and have gotten to wondering 
about them, especially Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers: do they return 
to the same wintering spots and do they remember activities/sights in 
those places as dangerous or not? There is waterfowl hunting on at least 
one adjacent property.

Prior to this opportunity, I had developed the impression (not data) 
that both species are very hard to get into photographic range (under 
100 feet, +/-) and that they will fly or flee out of sight and not come 
back, as soon as I discover them.

Using my car as a blind, with or without additional camouflage, during 
the first winter I spent lots of time there, the birds slowly became 
accustomed to my presence and ventured to within about 50' while 
foraging and loafing/sleeping. During the last 2 subsequent winters I've 
noticed that the birds are still quite comfortable with me in my car at 
close distances and didn't panic when I stepped out, either, they just 
swam away slowly or hid in the brush.

Could it be that these are some of the same birds I've seen before and 
they remember this site and my presence as un-threatening?

Today, I was in my preferred spot at the narrow end of the pond where 
there are nice reflections and the birds can come close as they forage: 
it's the first time I've been in that spot since the Hooded Mergansers 
first showed up some time last week (no Wood Ducks around, although 
they've done the same thing in past years). I'd parked elsewhere, 
further from the water, some hundreds of feet away from this spot, but 
in full view, for about an hour, earlier. Within 15 minutes the Hoodies, 
about 10 of them, swam south to my spot and checked me out, that is, 
they didn't feed or hide or rest, just swam by or floated still and 
seemed to watch me as I photographed them. Neither the camera shutter 
nor the lens movement disturbed them and I got some nice images.

Are they remembering me/this spot as good feeding (frogs and fish) and safe?

Inquiring minds, you know,

in Monmouth

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