Category Archives: DW Photography

The Red-Breasted Merganser Hamilton

The Red-Breasted Merganser Hamilton

Mersenger ducks

(Mergus serrator)

Wednesday November 16 2010

The red-breasted merganser is a medium-sized “saw-bill” sea duck. An adult weighs 800–1,350 grams (1.7–3.0 lbs) and is 51–64 cm (20.0–25.1 in.) long. Males are larger than females. Both sexes have a long narrow red bill with a black tip, red-orange feet, and black wings with white patches across the inner wing. Their serrated bill is highly specialized for grasping small fish securely

DescriptionThe red-breasted merganser is a medium-sized “saw-bill” sea duck. An adult weighs 800–1,350 grams (1.7–3.0 lbs) and is 51–64 cm (20.0–25.1 in.) long. Males are larger than females. Both sexes have a long narrow red bill with a black tip, red-orange feet, and black wings with white patches across the inner wing. Their serrated bill is highly specialized for grasping small fish securely

Diving ducks

Adult males have a head that is dark metallic green in the face with black elsewhere. Elongated feathers at the rear of the head form a long, shaggy, and double-pointed crest. Males have a white neck ring with varied body colors that include speckled brown chest, and gray sides and flanks. In late summer during molt, males resemble breeding females, except white on inner forewing is more extensive in male.

Adult females are largely gray-brown with white on chin, throat, breast, and belly; they retain this plumage year-round.

Horned Greb Duck


Red-breasted mergansers occur in arctic and subarctic regions throughout the northern hemisphere. In North America, they breed across the continent from the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, east across the Canadian arctic to the Atlantic provinces, Great Lakes region, and northeastern states.Below a Mallard duck that Winters in Hamilton.

Mallard duck

Red-breasted mergansers winter along the entire coastline of North America, in the Pacific from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to Baja California and in the Atlantic from Nova Scotia to northern Mexico. They are found mostly on coastal bays, large calm, open-water areas, estuaries, and harbors. They also winter on large interior lakes, such as the Great Lakes and the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Red-breasted mergansers are more frequently found in salt water than common mergansers, which winter more on fresh water. The large distance between arctic breeding areas and wintering areas as far south as coastal Mexico suggests a strong migratory tendency and dispersal ability. However, nothing is known about migration patterns or connectivity between nesting and wintering grounds.

Migrating duck

Habitat and Habits

Red-breasted mergansers are thought to establish pair bonds in winter. They are late spring migrants, flying in pairs or flocks of 5–15 individuals along major rivers, lake chains, and coastlines during day and overland by night. They also breed later than most ducks, beginning nesting in mid-June in Alaska, and from late May to early July in Atlantic Canada.

They breed at higher latitudes where tundra and boreal forest predominate. On tundra, they prefer larger, deeper lakes rather than small ponds. Most individuals breeding in the interior of North America migrate to and along the Pacific or Atlantic coasts before reaching final winter destinations.

Females return to the same nesting area each year. They nest on the ground, primarily near the coast, rivers, or large bodies of water. Crevices in coastal rocky cliffs and islets are also used for nesting. They often nest in loose colonies, sometimes 


in association with terns, gulls, or eiders.




The nest is a shallow bowl, often with a roof of standing vegetation, lined with increasing amounts of grass and downy feathers from the female as incubation progresses. Females lay an average of 9-10 eggs, but clutch size can range between 5–24 eggs. It is not uncommon for more than one female to lay eggs in another’s nest. Eggs are incubated approximately 30 days, and females may renest if the first nest is lost to predators.

Young from several broods may join to form large aggregations called crèches, which are typically attended by only one female. Young are often abandoned by the female before they can fly, often within the first week after hatching. Time required to reach fledging is poorly known, but assumed to be 60–65 days.

Males remain near the nest site until females begin incubating, then depart for molting locations, where they become flightless for 3-4 weeks while they grow new wing feathers.It is unknown where specific populations go to molt. Females molt with or near their broods on nesting areas.

Information Ducks unlimited


Doug Worrall

Conservation vs Control in Coote’s Paradise Hamilton

Conservation vs Control in Coote’s Paradise Hamilton


In 1974, a request came form RGB for control  of Coote’s Paradise.  But, the Hamilton Harbor Commission held tightly to the control  it claims it had under the 1912 Act Of Parliament by which it was created.  In fact, the 1912 Act of Parliament …supercedes the 28 year-old RGB legislation.
Now, the conservation issue in 1974, was the preservation of Coote’s Paradise being in doubt because of a recommendation that would double the release of sewage into Coote’s Paradise.  It was suggested to construct a sewage line along the base of Coote’s Paradise and Burlington Bay to the east-end Woodward plant.  Then RGB director, Leslie Laking, had great concerns about the decision.  he said “The RGB would have no effluent in Coote’s Paradise from here on in.”  And, chairman of the Harbor Board, Ed Tharen, ” pointed an accusing finger at the Dundas sewage treatment plant as the major polluter responsible for that gunk being poured into Coote’s Paradise.”
Stewart Morison, Ducks Unlimited Canada which is an offshoot of the U.S. group, in 1987, expects to spend $43 million in 1988 to build and restore wetland habitat for waterfowl.  Morison looked at prospects for involvement in a Coote’s Paradise project proposed by RGB biologist Len Simer.  From the high level bridge, Simer described the marshland’s problems and potential underlining three issues that hamper growth of plants needed for good wildlife habitat.  Perceptual opportunities for current difficulties hampering wildlife habitat in Coote’s are a justaposition of elements  and how they relate to each other, such as :: (1) wind-stirred mud; (2) bottom-feeding carp, and, (3) changing water levels. Carp and other invasive species continue to be an issue, even in 2,010 ,  Reduction of Carp is due to the Fishway operation.  This allows other fish and plants to return to the marshland.

In 1988, Ducks unlimited Canada said “Half of Coote’s Paradise can be restored to the wetland wildlife preserve it was earlier this century.  DUC, provincial  manager John Blain told RGB board of directors.  The now flooded swamp and surrounding wetlands at the far west end of Hamilton Harbor are part of RGB property.  Blain said “Coote’s Paradise restoration – We believe it’s feasible in terms of both biology and engineering and asked the conservation group to investigate.

In 1988, DUC would build more than 3 km (2 miles of earthen dikes to wall off 3 km (250 acres) of open water below the McMaster University CampusThis exciting initiative included: (1) Water depth would be lowered to foster the growth of natural marsh plants needed for good wildlife habitate; (2) There would be NO CARP to uproot young plants; and, (3) There would be less wind-stirred MUD to block sunlight.
Coote’s Paradise had another concern in 1988 because the region set sites on a Perimeter Road (now hwy. 403).  The north-side alternative was cheapest to build at $48 million.  Planners backed the north-south site because it would offer drivers an attractive view of the waterfront.  The Hamilton Harbor Commission would have to approve the scheme.  Now the negative side is beastly ugly because it includes three issues:
(1) Noise would affect the western harbour and
proposed waterfront park.  ( Now in 2,010 we
have a beautiful waterfont part with little
(2) The harbor’s surface area, volume and fish
habitat would be reduced.
(3) Fill would be needed in Coote’s Paradise.  And, thank goodness for former Alderman Mary Kiss, who recommened “to build 403 hwy WITHOUT PUTTING FILL IN COOTE’S PARADISE – one of the most ecologically important areas
Memory is like Jazz.  Life jazz, memory has more to do with now than then.  Then is just fiction now.
in Two Sides of a Centre
Robert Clark Yates

Would like to thank Robert Yates for his inspirational books and watchful eye on Cootes paradise.

Enjoy the pictures and information today and  have a great weekend.
Doug Worrall Photographer