Thursday, February 7, 2008

Southern Hills Lakes

It's been a slow year for ducks in the Springfield area. It seems like the days of Lake Springfield hosting a healthy population of wintering waterfowl have gone. I remember clearly the day many years ago when we spotted Cinnamon Teal and American Black Duck among the large flock of dabblers.
Back then the lake was choked with dense lotus vegetation in the warmer months. I certainly understand the negative effects of eutrophication, but it did seem that the aquatic vegetation increased the carrying capacity for waterfowl and waders. Just before the lake was treated with an aquatic herbicide, clearing the vegetation completely, we had sightings of White Ibis and Tri-colored Heron there. Of course chemical treatment did nothing to reduce the levels of nitrates and phosphates that caused the vegetation growth in the first place.

But, so much for Lake Springfield. Throughout my years of urban birding, one location has always hosted a healthy wintering population of ducks. Located in a 1950's era subdivision in east Springfield, the Southern Hills development features 3 small lakes. It is in these lakes that one can be sure to view Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, and Mallards on any winter day.
Recently we checked the ponds out. The highlight for the day was this Canvasback. Here's Marvin taking its picture. The winter status of Canvasback, although common on the Mississippi River, is rare elsewhere in Missouri. So, for me, this single bird was the highlight of our time at Southern Hills Lakes.
In the third small lake, we watched a mixed flock of Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallards, Canada Geese, and Ring-necked Ducks gently glide across the water.
A pair of Mute Swans was nearby, not associating with the "flock". For many years, the past residents of this location's population of swans were believed to originals of what some Springfield birders believe is a nearly sustainable population. Mute Swans have been spotted as far away as Palmetto to the east and Fellows Lake to the north. They continue to be seen in the area, but I'm thinking that the numbers are down this year, as only two birds remain at Southern Hills this winter. The influx of Canada Goose as a nuisance bird has most certainly limited the easy winter food formerly available in the Southern Hills neighborhood. I'm thinking that this population is at a critical impasse. Only time will tell what will come of it.


N8 said...

That new camera really does improve the quality of your photos, even through your scope.

Greg said...

Wish I could take credit, but the only waterfowl picture that was taken with my new camera is the Ring-necks. The mergansers and Canvasback are Marvin's.

Larry said...

Nice photos-hooded mergansers and Ring-necked ducks are the more common winter ducks around here but I like them the most.-Mute Swans are despised by some in CT because they are considered invasive-I don't care-I still enjoy seeing them.

N8 said...

I figured the RN Ducks were your's, that's what I was talking about.