Unfortunately, the mergansers in the above photo do not reside in our Wetlands.
I saw a report on the local bird listerv that a couple of broods of wood ducks and one merganser brood was seen at Sandy Creek Park on the south side of Durham. The park is located at the end of Sandy Creek Drive on the northwest side of the intersection of Hwy 15-501 and Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, just shy of 8 driving miles distance from the Museum.
We’ve had nest boxes in the Museum’s Wetlands since 2011 and mergansers swim and fish here from November to March and even into April. The nest boxes were installed in the hopes they would entice the mergs to extend their yearly visits and raise their young in our fair Wetland. But as of yet, no takers.
I can only guess at the reason mergs nest at Sandy Creek, just a few minutes flight time from the Museum, and not here at the Museum. But, an educated guess would be the relative quiet of Sandy Creek. Although the city park is surrounded by suburbia on one side and very busy highway on the other, it’s relatively isolated. There’s one road in and out. If the park’s not your destination you’re not likely to drive down Sandy Creek Drive.
There are two small ponds at the park, both fairly inaccessible except for a few small openings in the brush for nosy naturalists to peek through. The birds have it all to themselves for the entire day.
The birds here at the Museum are by no means harassed, but they are surrounded on three sides by human traffic for a good portion of the day. And, unlike mallards or the local Canada Geese, the mergs are shy and don’t like to be disturbed. They often spend the entire day in the willows or on the far side of the Wetlands during open hours.
It’s good to know that mergansers have nested as close as the Sandy Creek. There may be mergansers nesting even closer. There are several small ponds within a mile or two of the Museum and a beaver pond just down the road. But it’s my wish that they will someday feel comfortable enough to nest here.
It would be quite a thrill to one day walk down into our Wetlands and see a mother merganser trailing a brood of miniature mergs across the water.