Hart Beat by Hart Rufe

First published April 9, 2012 ... Contact Hart at hartrufe@gmail.com

More exciting than seeing a few Redhead Ducks is seeing a whole pond covered in them, here in Tierra Verde, Florida

"DUCKS ON THE POND"

Redhead Duck, femaleAnyone who has ever played baseball knows that “Ducks on the pond” means there are base runners in scoring position. The exhortation by team-mates is a socially acceptable way for them to urge their batter at the plate to “Just hit the damn ball, Stupid, and drive those runs in!” For birders, the phrase can mean anything from a single Mallard female duck in a mud puddle, to a raft of hundreds, even thousands of ducks on a large lake.

In Tierra Verde, at the southern tip of the St Petersburg peninsula, along the Pinellas Bayway  on the way out to Fort DeSoto County Park, we have discovered (well, not a Christopher Columbus type discovery, just new to us) a pond with ducks on it, a lot of ducks. In 2010, when we visited the area in late March the pond was covered with Ruddy Ducks. This year, our visit in February found it covered with Redhead Ducks (left, female above) with a few other species sprinkled in.

Redhed Duck, maleWhy do concentrations of ducks choose one lake or pond over another that seems to be almost identical in nature and character? Safety and food are probably the main considerations. There were no alligators on the lake and the lake was surrounded by thick vegetation on all sides except where there were large well-kept homes with manicured lawns running down to the lake edges. Surely there is no duck hunting in this area. No people or dogs were anywhere in sight.

We had great difficulty finding a small break in the vegetation in order to photograph the birds. When we did find such a spot, we pulled our car up to it and used the vehicle as a blind, waited for the birds to drift back close to our shore, and took our pictures out of the car window.

As for food, the water depth and quality are critical. Both Ruddy and Redhead ducks dabble and do shallow dives for aquatic plant life as well as mollusks, small shellfish and crustaceans. The water must support an abundance of both at the right depth for easy reach. The Tierra Verde pond obviously met both criteria. Other, seemingly similar ponds probably do not.

Jewel loved the area, and as we drove along the homes bordering the pond, exclaimed, “I could live here.” We found one vacant lot for sale, for which Jewel located the online listing – the $750,000 price tag for the vacant lot alone convinced us that it was indeed a nice pond for the ducks, and a nice pond for us to visit to see them

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler