Thursday, January 11, 2018

Getting my Ducks in a Row

I’ve been serving as the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for three and a half months now, so I’m starting to settle into some familiar patterns surrounded by familiar faces (or beaks for the purposes of this blog).

I’ve gotten used to walking out on the pier every day and sending groups of pigeons scattering in every direction. I’m used to seeing a kingfisher perched on the corner of the pier, or seeing a bald eagle flying over the water being harassed by gulls. I love seeing the cormorant perched on a buoy with its wings spread out to dry, and it’s always a special treat when the great blue heron takes off from the shore squawking like a little pterodactyl.

Bald eagle on the pier

Great blue heron on floating kelp

 So naturally I was intrigued when I noticed some fresh faces one afternoon on my walk up the pier. They were a group of ducks who had rusty brown heads with a crest at the back. I excitedly went into the Marine Exhibit and asked a volunteer docent if she knew what kind of birds they were and she told me they were red-breasted mergansers (I learn so much from our volunteers!). I did some research and found that they are joining us for the winter after spending the summer breeding further north.

Red-breasted merganser photo by Wendy Feltham

I don’t usually pay much attention to the birds on the water as I’m not familiar with many of them and I find it hard to get a good enough look to make an ID. 

The red-breasted mergansers have been an exception to this because they have been consistently hanging out very close to the pier in a big group and I love the silhouette of their shaggy crested heads. I am beginning to get used to their presence, greeting them with all the other wonderful birds on my walk down the pier. 

They have inspired me to be more curious and want to learn more about the other waterfowl in the area!

Group of red-breasted mergansers, photo by Wendy Feltham

For more, an info graphic that shows the range of the red breasted merganser, and how it may be impacted by climate change:

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston.


  1. I love your post, Lily! It's so true we can count on seeing the pigeons and the kingfisher every day by the ME, and that the rest of the cast of characters keeps changing! About ten days ago, I was so surprised to see the Red-breasted Mergansers gathered together on the beach beside the pier, as I'd only noticed them before in the sea.


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