Wren and I visited AuSable Marsh and AuSable Point the other day to look for birds and take a walk. Even though our goal was to look for waterfowl, our first bird was a Merlin flying fast and low along the road as we were arriving. The small falcon turned toward the road and came directly over our car! Merlins tend to make beelines between their destinations and this bird seemed to know exactly where it was headed. By the time I could stop to look at it, it had disappeared on fast wings.
We arrived at AuSable Point and got out to look at the ducks which were assembled there. The marsh was well frozen, but there were large numbers of waterfowl on the open water of the lake. Mallards and American Black Ducks sat close to shore, and I found good numbers of Scaup – mostly Lesser Scaup. There were also large numbers of Ring-necked Ducks – one of my favorite species of duck to see.
We drove to the campground where I parked and we hiked the roads along the beach to afford me opportunity to scan through any ducks we found as we walked. There were a few small rafts of Common Goldeneye, but I didn’t find a Barrow’s Goldeneye in them. As I scanned through them I saw large flocks of Scaup in the distance and I dismissed them hoping we might get closer to see them better later.
We walked around briefly on the icy roads in the campground hearing Black-capped Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper before we headed back to the main road into the campground where we could walk in the tire tracks which had exposed the asphalt and its consequential better footing. There I could also look at the ducks close to shore while Wren was more interested in smelling the bushes than she was about ducks bobbing on the gray waves. More ducks were arriving as we walked. We found the same assortment of species we had seen on our way out along the road, but also found Bufflehead, a lone Red-breasted Merganser, and Hooded Mergansers of which I attempted some photos. There was also a Bald Eagle flying around toward evening, unnerving the ducks and sending some of the ducks into flight and toward deeper water.
Brushy areas along the marsh produced a few American Tree Sparrows and a Song Sparrow, overwintering rather than moving further south. I checked out the marsh to see if anything was moving in the grasses, but all was cold and frozen. After we finished our walk and had looked through the close ducks I drove up along Route 9 to get a closer view of some of the flocks of Scaup, Goldeneye and other ducks which were along the road. I scanned through them, but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. But the number and diversity (we found 10 species) of ducks at AuSable Point is quite impressive and it is worth keeping an eye open there for odd species which may show up in the future!