The ducks put on quite a show at Mud Lake as migration season winds down - East Idaho News
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The ducks put on quite a show at Mud Lake as migration season winds down

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As I headed to Mud Lake on Tuesday to see if the snow geese had started to come through southeastern Idaho, I spotted some colorful ducks near Beaver Dick Park. In the bay on the Henrys Fork north of ID Highway 33 was a pair of wood ducks and two pair of hooded mergansers — two of my favorite ducks that migrate near us.

I spent a couple of hours looking for other pairs of ducks and had great success in areas where they generally stop by on their way north. After dragging myself away from them, I continued to Mud Lake where I found a small flock of snow geese, trumpeter and tundra swans and 13 species of ducks on the water where the ice had begun to break up. The waterfowl migration is in full swing and should continue for another two weeks.

Mallards and northern pintails have been dropping in at Deer Parks for about three weeks. In the last 10 days, they have been joined by American widgeons, Lesser scaup, red-breasted and common mergansers, ring-necked ducks, green-winged and cinnimin teal, buffleheads, canvasbacks, gadwalls and redheads. In the next couple of weeks, there will be more species showing up.

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A mixture of migrating ducks at Deer Parks WMA made up mostly of mallards and northern pintails. | Bill Schiess,

For the last four days, I have been spending my time looking for woodies and hoodies. Both are cavity nesters and compete for nesting spots. I found some on the South Fork of the Snake River, the Henrys Fork, the South Fork of the Teton River, and on two canals and a pond.

The Henrys Fork of the Snake River has quite a few in the St. Anthony area and on Thursday night there were four woodies and nine hoodies near Beaver Dick Park. Most of these ducks will continue migrating north, but each year it appears that more are finding places to nest in the valley.

On Tuesday, a male wood duck put on quite a show. His mate was on one side of me as I parked on a road and he was on the other side. Both were calling for each other. As he swam back and forth, the bright sun changed his colors with each movement. It was a beautiful experience that I will never forget.

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A pair of wood ducks found near St. Anthony this week. | Bill Schiess,

Then on Thursday evening, a male hoody tried to impress a young lady who was hiding under a willow. He went through all kinds of gyrations and calls to coax her out, but she refused to come out to play. I thought that he was a handsome devil, but maybe his calls were a little off-key for her.

I have a friend that has put up two nest boxes on his pond in hopes of having some of them nest on his property.

Several years ago, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game put out nests near Beaver Dick Park and areas around Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area. Some of these boxes have been used by both species of ducks and other birds.

Several times this week, I have been asked how I get so close to these birds. I find that if I can find an area where I can park my truck within 100 yards of them, wait about an hour, they will work back to me. If they are on private property, I try to get permission to park where they frequent and sit there until they swim by. Though it’s boring, it allows for better pictures. These ducks are hunted during the winter in other places, so a human outside a vehicle will flush them very quickly. I find my truck is the best blind where I can use for most birds and animals.

The duck migration should start winding down early in April, so you still have a week or two to enjoy them. There are a lot of interesting things to enjoy and places to visit. Mud Lake, Market Lake and the Osgood area are some of my favorites. Camas National Wildlife Refuge will make a great place to visit once the staff put water into the ponds and canals.

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A male woody showing his beautiful colors as the sun reflects off him. | Bill Schiess,

A male hoody displays his full crest as tries to impress other males. | Bill Schiess,

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A male hooded merganser sings and tries to talk a female into joining him. His efforts failed. | Bill Schiess,

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