With clear skies and temps to hit the 40's today Robin and I took a drive to Sarnia, Ontario to look for Long-tailed Ducks. Had the skies remained cloudy we would've remained in Port Huron, but sunny skies required a trip over the Blue Water Bridge so that lighting would favor us.
The mouth of the St. Clair River was open with sporadic ice flows, but ducks were scarce. A few Red-breasted Mergansers were floating in the middle of the river but at a distance a bit too far for digiscoping. A few Long-tailed Ducks appeared, and I managed to grab a flight shot as one took off from the water. Out in Lake Huron a small raft of White-winged Scoters were floating among a dozen or so Long-tailed Ducks but were too far to digiscope, so I packed up and headed downstream of the bridge.
Most of the shoreline along the Sarnia side of the river was ice-choked, but I found a small pull-off where a patch of open water was available. As I sat in the car and saw small groups of mergansers and Long-tails working the Port Huron side of the river a group of female Common Mergansers appeared near shore. Then, a male Bufflehead appeared next to shore. This prompted me to grab the camera and try to get some pics. I waited until he dove before getting out of the car, then waited next to the railing waiting for him to surface. Unfortunately I was too slow and he took off the moment he hit the surface. I could only manage a flight shot as he flew past me and landed next to shore just upstream about 30 meters away.
I returned to the car to grab the scope and walked back to get some digiscoped images. The Bufflehead was swimming among the mergansers and a single drake Long-tailed Duck. Score!
I waited for the Long-tail to dive, then worked my way to within digiscoping distance (~10 meters) and got some images when he resurfaced. He paid me little attention and floated to within a few meters and allowed some nice closeups. A second Long-tailed flew in and joined him, and for the next 20 minutes or so I enjoyed some nice digiscoping with the sun behind me.
I don't know where the thousands of Long-tailed Ducks went. Perhaps they were farther downstream, or maybe they've flown north? I'll have to keep my eyes open for reports. I was hoping to see some pre-alternate plumages before they moved back north. Was I too late?