Wood Ducks are generally known to migrate to warmer climes in the southern United States during the winter months, but occasionally, when there is open water and food available, one will overwinter locally. Usually the place they can find these conditions are on Lake Champlain, but this year, with the extra cold weather, open water on there has been hard to come by . With that taken away, the only substantial open water that can be found in our areas is around dams and waterfalls, like the iconic waterfall found in downtown Middlebury. I first spotted a  male Wood Duck upstream of the falls on Dec. 23rd before the deepest freeze set in, and it looked to me like the unhappiest duck in the world, struggling to find a good spot to rest on the ice edge and generally looking cold and miserable. I must have been wrong about that impression however as the Wood Duck was re-found during the postponed Middlebury Christmas Bird Count on Jan. 5th. when it was observed perched up in a tree eating grapes. Since then it has been spotted regularly by birders both above and below the falls, often joined by more regular winter visiting Common Mergansers, and now slightly less usual Common Goldeneyes.  If you find yourself in Middlebury in the near future, have a look from the Cross St. Bridge or from the Mill St. parking lot for this beautiful winter visitor, and if you do don’t forget to check in trees and shrubs with grape vines where it might be having a meal.

– Ron Payne