Saturday, February 12, 2011

Time for the...Lake Michigan Duck Watch

The Mallard didn't have any money for the lip balm; so he told his pharmacist to "put it on my bill" - quack!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin in February

What else is there to do on a cold (but warming slightly) Milwaukee, Wisconsin weekend right? 

Why go and watch the ducks on the lakefront - of course.  The only problem with doing so is being able to actually "see" them.  To make it happen, you either have to have a HUGE spotting scope and tripod coupled with patience OR I would think a queen-sized bed sheet could do the trick.  What I mean is (for the latter idea); dress warmly, carry your binoculars and sneak out to the edge of the ice flow, sit down on a chunk of Styrofoam, drape the sheet (plain white of course) over yourself and wait.  Congratulations; you have just successfully camouflaged yourself as a drift.  You'll have to "wait" however because all the while you are sneaking, the ducks will have noticed the movement (no matter how stealthy) and have slowly swam farther out to sea en-masse.  It'll get damn cold as you wait for the ducks (if they ever do) to decide that whatever dragged itself out on to that far away ice shelf is no longer a threat; mysteriously disappearing into the landscape.

For the purposes of this blog - We (Barbara and I) did neither of the aforementioned.  We simply walked out - scared the ducks whipped out the binos for a quick peek and also took some long range images with the digital camera.  We did see a few of the Lake Park Birders standing about a 1/4 mile away on shore (in a little knot) for about 15 minutes before they apparently got tired of their extremely long-distance vantage point and left.  The surrounding ice-scape was quite spectacular in and of itself.  The waves of the big lake coupled withe the recent high winds had created these amazingly round ice globes in various sizes from an orange to a beach ball.  Walking amongst them created quite a challenge.  The threat level of slipping and twisting an ankle or bruising something important was high but well worth the journey.

Common goldeneyes, Hooded mergansers, Lesser scaups were numerous and quietly active. Even a sole pair of Mallards drifted by the iceberg we stood upon.  Ducks, ducks and more ducks dotted the light blue waterscape mixed in with floating chunks of frozen H2O.  Turning around, the city of Milwaukee glistened in the far off background as the sound of icy waters sloughed at the edges of the new Winter-created glacial shoreline.  Cars could be seen whisking their occupants north and south on Lakeshore Drive along with the occasional spandex-clad jogger - ponytail whipping like a pendulum clock.  February marches on and the citizens of Milwaukee marched too.

To experience such natural frigid beauty; one must purposely decide to leave the snugly confines of their artificially heated dwellings in order to bask in the genuine warmth of the sun.  It's tough fellow Midwesterners I know...but so worth the effort; bed sheet or not...just always remember your binoculars.

By the DOES one get down off a duck?

Lesser scaups flying in formation

Got time for a peaceful moment? - Watch the gentle wave-action...