Feels like home to Alaskan ducks

MECCA – A diving duck common to Alaska and northern Canada has temporarily set up shop in Trumbull County, and birders from all over the area are flocking to catch a glimpse.

Hundreds of ducks are gathered around a small patch of unfrozen water under the state Route 88 causeway in Mecca, as Canada geese, canvasbacks, goldeneyes and even a swan fight for food as they migrate through the area.

But what has ruffled the feathers of birders is the appearance of the long-tailed duck, a black-and-white duck not normally seen during this time of the year.

“(Long-tailed ducks) don’t usually nest here, but they’re coming through because the open water means there’s an opportunity for fish,” John Kolar, chief naturalist for the Geauga Park District, said. “What’s interesting is that we would not usually get a chance to get this close to them, but they’re hungry and the only open space (is right up against the causeway).”

Kolar said he made the 45-minute drive from his home in Chardon to view the rare sight after reading about the news on his Facebook feed.

“Today was actually my day off, but I kept hearing about how these ducks were here from friends of mine on Facebook, and I had to come down to see it for myself,” Kolar said. “It’s actually very rare to see this many ducks so concentrated around one small area of water.”

Kolar said that he expects all of the ducks, including the long-tailed ducks, to stay in the area as long as the food was plentiful.

Ernie Clutter of Mecca was also drawn to the ducks after observing people parking on the bridge to duck watch this past week.

On what was a chilly Monday afternoon, Clutter scanned the open water with his binoculars while Kolar offered him a crash course in ornithology, the study of birds.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching birds and ducks, and we’re definitely fortunate to be able to see these (long-tailed ducks) today,” Clutter said. “I just saw the flock and I finally decided to stop by and check it out.”

Clutter said he had spent at least an hour observing the gathering of ducks, while his wife sat further down the causeway in their idling car.

“I just hope that my wife is still there when I’m done watching the ducks,” Clutter joked.