If you were on social media two years ago, you may have seen this before. Somehow I missed it, but decided to take a chance with it tonight in case you missed it too.
In June 2018, wildlife photographer Brent Cizek ventured out onto Lake Bemidji in northern Minnesota in a plastic kayak that he’d purchased several months before. He was hoping to get some good pictures but it was windy and the lake was a little choppy, so he had serious doubts about getting any photos in focus. Fortuitously, he stuck it out anyway. His perseverance earned him some internet fame and helped him transition from amateur hobbyist wildlife photographer to professional.
Keeping relatively close to shore, he noticed a flock of birds in the water ahead. Coming closer, he realized it was a mother duck with her ducklings – they were Common Merganser ducks – and there were alot of ducklings. Attempts to count them were foiled repeatedly as mama and babies swam under and around multiple boat docks. Unable to get a clear shot with his camera, Cizek decided to head back to the boat launch. Mama Merganser had the same notion, and wound up meeting him there just as he arrived.
Seizing the opportunity, Cizek started taking pictures and hoped that some would turn out. As it happens just one did, from which he counted 56 ducklings total. He posted it on twitter. This isn’t his original tweet, but it’s his original photo, even though the tweet refers to 76 ducklings.
Later, Cizek went back to the lake and found Mama Merganser again. This time she had 76 ducklings in tow, having taken on more to care for. Common Merganser hens often lay a few of their eggs in another hen’s nest, sort of an insurance policy against predators getting all their eggs. It’s also common among Merganser hens to adapt stray or orphaned ducklings, which is how this mama duck acquired such a large brood, ornithologists believe.
Cizek went back to the lake again last year and made a couple of videos of a large group of ducklings.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite bird?