A new trick…

It continues to dip below freezing at night, so the snow is sticking around nicely and the trail along the river continues to be nice and firm in the morning. I saw no new critters to report today, but the mallards were back in their regular place, just above the falls, and showing off a trick that I have not seen them perform before: diving completely under the water for food.

I had to use my phone for the video because some knucklehead forgot to put the memory chip back into my camera, but it still came out not too bad.

As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains “Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive.” In fact, in a 1987 article by R. A. Furilla and David R. Jones in Physiological Zoology on Cardiac Responses to Dabbling and Diving in the Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, I kid you not, the authors conclude “Obviously, mallards differ markedly from true diving ducks not only in cardiac adjustments to diving but also in their control.”

So there you have it. Right there on the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park on January 7, 2021, the conditions were just right to induce a raft of Mallards to resort to this rare and magical behavior.

Speaking of rare and magical behavior, Anne and I did finally get to catch a glimpse of the busted remains of The Great Conjunction of 2020. It has been cloudy around here in the evening since well before December 21, the moment of “their closest encounter since 1623“, until Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, in the 15 days since the 21st, they have already moved back apart quite a bit and gotten closer to the horizon, so the viewing was not great, and I didn’t even try to take any pictures. Nevertheless, it was still cool to see, and by the time we have grandkids to tell about it, we will remember it as the most amazing thing ever.

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

%d bloggers like this: