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The thermometer hovered in the mid-thirties, a light wind ruffling the pond water. Rain dripped forlornly from the shriveling snowberries, a tiny fly huddling amid the berries while another insect poked at the decay.

On the pond itself, nothing stirred. The usual hangout - a log- shivered with each new breeze, bereft of ducks and turtles.

And then, just a stirring among the reeds and all that had been hidden were revealed. First, a male mallard cruised out just far enough to catch the eye.

Soon I could just make out his mate huddled in the weeds.

A sparrow peered out from a clump of bushes while a kingfisher buzzed in to survey the scene.

At last, out sailed the wood ducks ---

With a companion in tow - a hooded merganser male! Below you see him with his hood down (left photo) and with his hood up (right photo). Note how small he is compared to the mallard behind him in the picture to the right.

Apparently hooded mergansers are secretive and not commonly seen in the Pacific NW although Cornell says there is probably a small but stable population here. They nest in hollow trees and nesting boxes as wood ducks do. Females have a cinnamon colored crest and look like this, taken a couple of weeks ago in another location.

No matter how many times we go our with a camera, we never fail to see something interesting. The surprises keep us going out, even on a chilly December afternoon.

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