Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 16:51:57 -0400
Reply-To: Eran Tomer <etomer@EMORY.EDU>
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Eran Tomer <etomer@EMORY.EDU>
Subject: Hooded Merganser details
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
A quick check on Monday did not reveal the Hooded Mergansers which I
reported to the RBA from the Chattahoochee NRA, nor could Giff Beaton
locate them later. Because they may still be around, however, I would like
to post precise directions for those who might want to look for them this
weekend. Also, as every rarity is (and should be) subject to skepticism, a
note on ID should there be no further observations.
Directions to the Johnson's Ferry South CRNRA unit are in Birding Georgia
and elsewhere, but in brief: locate the Johnson's Ferry Rd. bridge over
the Chattahoochee River, going from Sandy Spring to Marietta. Moving
towards Marietta, turn left into Columnd Dr. immediately after crossing
the bridge. You will see a CRNRA parking lot on your left, but keep going
down the road to the next CRNRA parking lot on the left, marked with a
brown sign. Behind the announcement board in the parking lot a fairly
short trail begins along the river bank.
Facing the river, walk left (towards Johnson Ferry Rd). Soon an
impenetrable area with dense saplings lined with blackberry will appear on
the left. Keep walking while watching the saplings until, about halfway
down the trail, a small and overgrown gap in the saplings appears, almost
like a tunnel. Turn left there into the sapling area, and advance very
carefully to the edge of the wetland. The mergansers were swimming on the
right side of the swamp but they can be anywhere and hard to see if in the
PLEASE BE EXTRA CAREFUL NOT TO DISTURB THE VEGETATION, PARTICULARLY WHERE
THE TRAIL MEETS THE SAPLING GAP AND ALONG THE MARSH, AND ENTER/EXIT THE
GAP WHEN OTHERS ARE NOT LOOKING. THE MANY NON-BIRDERS AND THEIR UNLEASHED
DOGS CAN EASILY WREAK HAVOC WITH THE SCORES OF BIRDS THAT NEST IN THE
As for ID, the sighting will be fully documented but here are the
essentials. The 4 birds were observed for several minutes in clear view
and good light, from a distance of roughly 70 ft., with a 10-power
binocular. Wood Ducks and Mallards were available for comparison, and the
observer is familiar with both male and female Hooded Merganser (HOME).
GISS: only deviation from typical HOME were the round, crest-less heads
(juveniles), which made them look almost like large grebes at first. The
birds were slighly smaller than adult HOME but slightly larger than a Wood
Duck. Their posture was also "taller" than the Wood Duck's "horizontal"
BILL: the most diagnostic feature seen. Typical HOME's, somewhat on the
short side, the bills were narrow and black. Distinctly unlike a wide
dabbler bill or a short/stubby Pied-billed Grebe bill. The angle between
bill and forehead was rather sharp.
WINGS: scapulars had long, narrow, white stripes on the edges of the
folded wings, the long feathers curving downwards at the ends, much like
TAIL: held on surface of water (but somewhat hard to see).
PLUMAGE: brownish-gray, roughly similar to female HOME's or Pied-billed
Grebe's backs. Distinctly unlike female Wood Duck's gray. Rather uniform
pigmentation, not mottled or otherwise marked, turning slighly lighter on
the lower sides and no distinct patterns on the face or head/neck.
BEHAVIOR: the 4 birds swam in a tight group in the rather shallow water,
preferring to stay close to trees and branches in the water. They were not
feeding, except for an occassional pick from the water surface.
Avoidance behavior to my presence was minimal.
VOICE: unsure, but the 4 were evidently reacting to calls from a nearby
waterfowl hidden by vegetation (I am not familiar with HOME vocalization
at all). The calls were fairly quiet duck-like quacks, sometimes
prolonged and certainly dissimilar to Mallard. They did not resemble
grunts or whistles of any sort.
Good luck to anyone trying to find these birds.
- Eran Tomer