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Duck, Duck … Swan

Migrant waterfowl arriving in force

2013-2014 Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp, “Peaceful Swim,” by Paul Makuchal.

Species by species, flocks are arriving from their summer nesting and breeding homes in the north. Some fly our way from as far west as Alaska; others come from the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada.
    Month by month since August, we’ve been visited by diving ducks: blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, shovelers, pintails and wood ducks, says Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Larry Hindman.
    Early November brings migratory mallards and black ducks. Then come divers like bufflehead, canvasback, scaup and some red heads. Most head onto the Gulf Coast where the underwater grasses they eat are more abundant.
    Offshore are sea ducks like scooters and long tails, divers that eat clams.
    To identify all these birds, you’ll need a bird book and binoculars.
    Recognizable at first sight are two bigger Bay migrants, Canada geese and tundra swans. Both fly in sprawling Vs, announcing their arrival with hooting and barking.
    Early migratory Canada geese are with us now and still coming.
    Give us a couple of cold days, Hindman says, and in will come the tundra swans.
    Swans are off limits to hunters, but other waterfowl are fair game. Sea duck season runs October 1 to January 31. November season for other ducks and Canada geese has just opened and continues to Thanksgiving, reopening December 17 through most of January.
    Hunter or not, you’ll hear the proof all over Chesapeake Country.