Friday, December 23, 2011

Icy Goldeneye

What makes a good duck hunter? Aim, for one, but also the ability to quickly and accurately identify ducks: in flight, at rest, on the water. In Michigan, there are certain species of duck that may be taken; others are protected and cannot be hunted. So what's a duck hunter to do when he or she shoots the wrong duck?

Hide the evidence, as a friend found out. A couple of months back, she found a paper bag stuffed with a few ducks, dumped in the woods. She buried them, but as we know, dead animals don't stay hidden. The other day, I was told that one of the ducks had resurfaced, and would make a great photographic subject, so I went out to take a look.

At the time, I was perplexed; when I heard "ducks" I assumed they were mallards, so why ever would someone dump them in the woods? When I arrived, though, it became obvious that the duck wasn't a mallard -- in fact, it was something I really hadn't seen before. Beneath the frost and snow that obscured much of the body, I could see a dark head and mostly-white body. Steph identified it as a male Common Goldeneye. The feathers were incrusted with ice crystals; the underside was stained red with old blood.

Goldeneye I 

 I could not find a bag limit for the goldeneye on Michigan's DNR website, so I assume they're not game for hunting. That said, I have found old forum posts where Michigan sportsmen have displayed their bagged goldeneye, so I am a bit confused on the matter, and welcome any explanations out there. Are they legal to shoot, and perhaps someone went over their bag limit? Or are goldeneyes off-limits entirely, in the state of Michigan?

Meanwhile, I'm finally seeing live goldeneyes, for the first time! They've been hanging out on the Chocolay River, and Steph and I have observed them feeding in the cold water. Unlike mallards, which are dabbling ducks, goldeneyes are diving ducks, and they will dive for their meals. Just the other day, Steph saw a male goldeneye dive underwater, and resurface with a sizable fish in his bill.

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