How many times have I seen these ducks without bothering to learn more?
Well, I have rectified that situation. After meeting this hooded merganser on Blenkinsop Lake in Saanich, B.C. I dove into my Birder's Handbook to read that this dramatically crowned creature does some pretty interesting things.
Exhibit A: females will lay eggs in each other's nests and this can result in a dump nest with dozens of eggs from many layers. Considering the high cost of raising young, this is a pretty good strategy as long as you're not the female sitting on the dump nest. Don't try this at home, ladies, no one's going to sit on your kids for you while you paddle around in the pool.
Exhibit B: Hooded mergansers will share incubation duties with wood ducks or golden eye females in a little bit of inter-species co-operation. Well, that's more like human moms who will do another harried parent a favour regardless of how little else they may have in common.
I'm recklessly anthropomorphizing because I got permission from a biologist at UVic this week. I called this smart man with regard to an article I was writing about eagle nest webcams. He was my expert, and I was not prepared for him to condone the chat on the website that goes on about ma and pa and the babies. He said that scientists need to remain objective when studying animals, as much as possible, but for the general public, making connections to their own experiences is how people do just that – connect – with wildlife.
I feel much freer to translate the thoughts of animals in cartoonish voices for other humans. Thanks Dr. Starzomski.