I love seeing the sleek, black-and-white figures of male common mergansers in breeding plumage on the partially frozen waters of the Bow River. There seems to be a certain symmetry between the winter river and the birds. On overcast days, the river appears black and white and grey, its thick ice covered in blankets of pure white snow and its water, wild ribbons of greys and black. Black-and-white mergansers disappear in the summer and fall. From July to October, males in eclipse plumage wear the grey bodies and reddish-brown heads of females and juveniles.
It was too cold to go birdwatching for a couple of hours on December 28th 2016 but the weather was pleasant enough to take a stroll along the river near my favourite Calgary bakery. On the St. Patrick’s Island path, I didn’t hear or see a lot of bird life. I heard the ‘peek’ of one downy woodpecker and saw a juvenile bald eagle fly over the little forest of balsam poplars and across the river. I stared and stared at the empty river until a black-and-white duck flew by. Intriguing! (Photo below of a later flying event.)
Maybe he landed nearby? A few minutes of walking later, I found him floating with another black-and-white duck. Male mergansers! And then I spotted two others. They preened, floated, swam against the current, dove, bobbed up and down, and flew. And I found all that delightful.
A view of downtown Calgary from St. Patrick’s Island. The bakery is on the northeast corner of downtown.