21 March 2013

Superlative Number of Canvasbacks at Carter Lake

Another bicycle survey of Carter Lake, this time on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-March provided details of a wonderfully significant number of Canvasbacks at this place within the Missouri River valley.

With a big variability in the spring weather, the afternoon of March 19 was a suitable time-frame to make another excursion to the vicinity. The survey route was similar to more than one hundred previous visits, with many done via bicycle transportation, well suited to getting to the variety of places around the lake. As to the normal route, it typically begins at Kiwanis Park, goes north, then west and then there is a whole mix of options to either observe from the pavilion, to get a good look at the pond or horseshoe pool, and then go further north to the northwest pond, and perhaps along the abandoned railway corridor.

Graphs indicating the number of Canvasback ducks counted on different surveys at Carter Lake.

On Tuesday, the aggregate count indicated there were something like 350 Canvasbacks. It was not a single derivative, but an aggregation of birds spread about at more than seven portions of the lake's water, from its east side to more notably on its western extent.

This is the largest gathering of this "lord of the ducks" ever recorded in the Missouri River valley. The claim is based upon a consideration of more than 500 available records, dating back to 1919 when an initial count occurred.

On March 24, 2006, more than 300 were present at Lake Manawa, according to local birder Clem Klaphake, as reported online. On December 8, 2012 a count made at Cater Lake indicated at least 250, Justin Rink reported online. There are several counts of approximately 200 for Lake Manawa and the MidAmerica Energy Ponds, both in Iowa.

The first known count of this species of waterfowl occurred on October 19, 1928 at this oxbow lake, with only five known count records from 1997 and dates prior. Initial counts in 1998 are available for Kiwanis Park, during March.

From then, until April 2011, there are no known counts associated with Canvasbacks at water environs about Carter Lake. On the 1st date of this month, no fooling, two were seen. Then no more until October 22nd when the significant occurrence of this diving duck started to occur in the modern era.

They have typically been present through the second or third week of April. After an obvious absence, their autumnal arrival occurs during the late days of October.

Most significant is the numbers recently present. In addition to the 350 count presently made, there were 120 on the 15th and 100 on the 13th of March.

These birds are especially prominent because of the white plumage of the drakes bright in the sunlight. Upon a closer lake, perhaps through a spotting scope, there is a more vivid perspective of the males and females, with their readily seen characteristics.

This species has been interspersed among the many other sorts of waterfowl present upon the lake in recent weeks.

On the day of this visit, the pumps appeared to be working to add more water to the lake, as there was a vivid flow into the lake, at the pump station.

There are several days, or maybe a week or two, pending for any especially indicative occurrence of Canvasbacks at Carter Lake this season ...

However, the peak seems to have occurred and, thankfully, was noticed and appreciated.

Wintery weather will inhibit any further attemps in the next few days. Chilly temperatures, hearty winds and even snowy conditions hinder bicycle-based surveys about Carter Lake places.