Mergansers on my mind

It’s that time of year when migrating ducks stop on our little lake for a day or two before heading farther north. On Sunday afternoon the spouse noticed a few diving ducks. I headed down to the dock and counted five red-breasted mergansers. They were too far away to try to photograph but the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm, so I decided to launch the kayak and go on a wild duck chase. I paddled to the far end of the lake, and the mergansers paddled alongside, keeping a healthy distance.

Every time I tried to get a little closer the ducks sped up. So I spied from afar, watching them dip their heads under and snorkel along, then dive below.


When I got home I read up a bit on red-breasted mergansers. Apparently these sleek ducks can fly 81 mph! They migrate long distances–from their wintering grounds along the coast of the US and Mexico, to their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska. I did not see them in flight, but I did see them keep to their line, which they use to herd fish into shallow areas and then grab them with their long, serrated bill. And fish they must–they eat 15-20 fish a day.

My merganser visitors inspired a quick poem today. I debated including a line about their punk-rock hairdos, but couldn’t quite make it work. Maybe next draft.

Mergansers on the Move

We’re the Red-eye Express
winging fast, winging far.
We streak through the clouds
like a burst of stars

‘til it’s time to rest,
to refuel, take a break.
Five diving ducks
on a faraway lake.

We snorkel and snap
as fish slip away.
We trap with our beaks
then swallow our prey.

With a flap of our feathers,
we launch to the stars.
We’re the Red-eye Express
winging fast, winging far.
–©Buffy Silverman

Happy Poetry Friday! Tabatha has today’s roundup, and a harvest of bilingual poems.

24 thoughts on “Mergansers on my mind

  1. Buffy, I think your post makes a great lesson for elementary children on how to research information on favorite birds and then compose your thoughts into a poem. I did not know about this type of bird so I learned new information and that is exactly what children should do with your model here.

  2. Buffy, I think your poem and photos would make a great elementary class study on this type of bird leading to research on others. Thanks for the little lesson on facts I did not know.

  3. Thanks for introducing me to these feathered fellows, Buffy! I’ve never heard of Mergansers before, but I, too, am wow-ed by the way your poem that manages to include their eye color, speed, fish consumption so perfectly – “like a burst of stars”! Their feather-dos ‘quack’ me up as well. 🙂

  4. It’s a good week when there’s a blog from you. I love what I learned about these red-eyed express birds. 81 mph?! Yikes! The hairdos really are funny. I hope you find a way to write about them. I’ll bet they think they’re cool dude ducks. ha! 15-20 fish a day is quite a diet. I wonder if they ever completely fish out a pond! Great catch of real life in poetry this week.

  5. LOVE your poem and backstory about your ducky friends. They do have great punk rock hairdo’s don’t they? And being able to fly 81 mph? Wow! It always amazes me how far migrating birds travel — and they don’t get lost! 🙂

  6. It is amazing how fast these ducks can fly, and how much they must eat each day. They are as lovely as your poem is lively – although I cannot help hoping for more verse on their punk rock hairdos! Too fun!

  7. Ooh – I’ve not heard of, or seen mergansers before. How very pretty they are. I am so glad you paddled along with them, and that it led to such a lovely poem, too.

  8. So glad you were able to catch that Red-eye Express in action, Buffy! Looking forward to your next draft with the punk rock hairdos, though. I want to know what they named their band! The Duck Kennedys? The Quax Pistols?

  9. Love your ‘red-eye’ express. My car is in the shop so I cannot get to the lake most days as planned, now wondering what’s flying through. I guess they really need to eat that much, right, in order to get flying at 81 mph. I love you went on a ‘duck’ hunt!

  10. Oh yes, I am going to share this with my duck-loving grandkids. They will find it interesting. They walk to the tiny lake (man made) calling it the duck pond almost daily. They love to walk in the nearby wooded section, maybe spend a quarter to give the seeds (the officially preferred food) to the ducks (and sometimes the rather aggressive geese). So much being in nature can teach. Not sure they have seen mergansers but they may know and now can look for them if they are around. Thanks, Buffy.

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