Saturday, April 16, 2011

Urban ducks

I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, a mere half hour to our nation's capital, and yet, I don't think I really explored the city much until quite recently.  It has a surprisingly large amount of green space, and the bike trails that connect them all are pretty awesome.

Last week I went for a 22km bike ride through the city, using almost exclusively the multi-use pathways.  I started in Vanier, following the Rideau River south to Lees avenue, where I crossed the river and found my way to the Rideau Canal.  I toured the canal to Dow's Lake and looped through the Arboretum before returning to Vanier.  After my tour, I felt like I knew the city better, like all that time spent travelling around it in a car only skimmed the surface.  I encountered many people biking, jogging, and walking.  It felt so good to be outside in the sunshine and appreciating the urban wildlife. 

Mallard couple and Wood duck couple on a double date

Along my travels I spotted lots of ducks, particularly along the Rideau River.  Mallards (Anas platyrhynchosi), Wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and even a merganser were seen cruising through the city.

Female merganser - Hooded I think?
I think this was a female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), and I really really hope I'm right, because if there are female hooded mergansers around, the males can't be far behind, and in my opinion, male hooded mergansers are the silliest looking creatures we have here in Canada.  You be the judge. Go on, I dare you to show me a more absurd Canadian animal!

Lady Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck - he knows he's good looking
The wood ducks were pretty cool to see since I haven't seen them very often before.  I guess I was looking in all the wrong places, since there were several pairs along the Rideau River last week. Wood ducks nest in tree hollows or man-made nest boxes.  You may remember this scene from Planet Earth when the Mandarin Ducklings (the European relative of the Wood Duck) take their leap of faith from their nest way up in the trees.  Habitat loss (including loss of suitable trees for nesting) and over-harvesting drove this once abundant species to near extinction in the early 20th century.  Protection by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) and the construction of man-made nest boxes allowed wood duck populations to rebound and they are no longer a species at risk.  

1 comment:

  1. I love the arboretum! Calgary has a lot of green space as well, but it's different. More prairie-like I guess. I really miss being around water! And the smell and feel of the humidity. There have been a lot of ducks around the cottage the last few years too.