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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

Canada Geese
© George H. Harrison

Snow Geese
© George H. Harrison

Waterfowl on the Move

This is the time of the year when waterfowl are on the move from their breeding grounds in the North to their wintering grounds in the South. This includes ducks, geese and swans, which often form flocks of impressive numbers. Though they fly long distances in a single day, sooner or later, these large birds must rest and feed. Thatís when they glide into lakes, ponds and streams where we can get a closer look at them. First arrivals are often blue-winged teal, early nesters and early migrators. Next may be mallards, northern pintails and American wigeons. In the West, cinnamon teal, gadwalls, and green-winged teal make brief stopovers. In the East, mallards, American black ducks and wood ducks visit wetlands.

Tundra swans, which nest in northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia, make a diagonal flight from northwest to southeast, ending up in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Southeast Atlantic Coast for the winter.

Various populations of Canada and snow geese, having nested across northern Canada, make their annual pilgrimages south into the U.S. and eventually into in middle America for the winter. As they move south, the migratory geese mingle with the resident geese, mostly the giant subspecies that have become pests, complicating population control.

Whether in the East or West, the flow of waterfowl in the fall is always South. To better enjoy this annual movement, use a spotting scope to get a closer look at these marvelous birds.

-- George H. Harrison