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2014-12-04 Poway Creek Mergansers

Hooded Merganser

There is a location on Poway Creek, a mile from my home where I like to hunt for Wilson’s Snipe each winter. While the snipes may bring me to this location, at times I’ve been rewarded by meetings with other amazing birds.

The City of Poway mows down all the tall cattails, bulrushes and willows each fall, as a flood control measure. By the time cutting time comes around, the growth will reach six to ten feet high. Thankfully, the contractors they hire wait, or are regulated to wait, until after all nesting has finished before they clear out the annual growth. Once cleared, the 150’ wide channel opens up for birds to forage and birdwatchers to watch.

Snipe spend winters here and only after the brush work is done can you begin to see them. Their numbers vary from year to year, but I once counted 14 Wilson’s Snipe in the 150 yards of this creek bottom. The location is always a likely location to add a few birds to our list when we are doing our Christmas Bird Count.

Following a rain, the usual trickle flowing through the creek bottom swells, and dabbling ducks (teals, mallards, gadwalls) will make an appearance here. On this occasion I enjoyed the company of a half dozen Hooded Mergansers foraging in the faster-than-usual waters of Poway Creek. Crayfish seemed to be on their menu and there seemed to be an all-you-can-eat buffet for their dining pleasure.

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