Every spring there is a narrow window of time when the ice on the area rivers and lakes is breaking up and the migrating ducks are forced to feed near shore. The early ducks are mostly ducks that feed by diving for small fish and crustaceans. Late March and early April is the time to get out and crawl across the ice to try and shoot these colorful and hardy ducks. Above is a Hooded Merganser taking off from a small patch of ice-free Perch Lake near Fond du Lac, Duluth.

To semi-camouflage myself, I would set up a tripod and drape some camo material over it and hide behind it. I could then sit or lay down behind it until some ducks drifted by. For the most part, these early diving ducks are very wary and anything strange and out of the ordinary along the shoreline would send them frantically flying for safer waters.

“Sawbill” is an old colloquial name for Common Mergansers. Serrations on their bill aid in gripping slippery, slimy fish. They breed in extreme northeast Minnesota on large lakes. Much larger (2 feet long) than its smaller cousin, the Hooded (18 inches long).

Common Goldeneyes are around most of the winter on Lake Superior (if there is open water) but breed in the U.S. only in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan (some in Montana). They are commonly seen in the BWCA near rapids. Their extremely cute ducklings are little black and white fuzzballs. The top photo is a male with iridescent green head.

Female Common Goldeneyes also have gold-colored eyes but lack the males glossy green head plumage. Every time this little lady dove, I crawled across the ice, eventually working my way up to the edge of the ledge ice. Minutes later, I heard cracking sounds and quickly backed off!

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