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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Frozen Lake + Open Ferry = Ducks

The very rare Tufted Duck at the Charlotte Ferry,
identifiable by its black back and white sides.

An innovative new formula: frozen lake + open ferry = ducks!  As a student of mathematics, now spending the bulk of my time in natural history studies, I crave opportunities to put my math knowledge to practice.  While this won’t impress my math professors, the arithmetic adds up!  For the first time in almost a decade, Lake Champlain is almost entirely frozen.  The regular movement of the ferry from Charlotte, VT to Crown Point, NY has kept a narrow channel open, even in the coldest temperatures, and the few remaining ducks on the lake are taking advantage.

It’s a who’s who of ducks right now in Charlotte.  Anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousands ducks have been congregating for almost a month now at the ferry landings on both sides of the lake. On Sunday March 23, I had a total of 16 species of ducks visible from one spot!  Most were Greater and Lesser Scaup, as well as Common Goldeneye. These species made up the vast majority of the ducks present.  But many other species were represented.

Some of the rarer species had sole representatives, including singles of Canvasback (female), Redhead (male), White-winged Scoter (female), and Green-winged Teal (male).  A pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye was a treat, as was a flock of Northern Pintails.  But the crème de la crème was a male Tufted Duck, a European species that only seldomly appears in the US.  

In the next few weeks, as some species begin their northern migration, more odd ducks may show up at the ferry.  I’d highly recommend a visit for anyone seeking an opportunity to observe and study waterfowl.  This unique situation isn’t likely to be repeated for a long time, so as the mathematical formula states, frozen lake + open ferry = ducks!  

a flock of male and female Northern Pintails

A lone White-winged Scoter was a rare member of the flock
Green-winged Teal are common spring and fall migrants,
but are very rare this time of year.
The Barrow's Goldeneye, identifiable here by its tear-drop shaped
white mark on the front of its head, is a rare treat in Vermont, present only in winter.


  1. thanks for this post. I have a free day in a few weeks and I will definitely go!

  2. Thanks Claudia! Others have reported that just as many ducks, if not more, are on the New York side of the ferry, and many seem to go back and forth between the two sides. A ferry ride might be in order to see them all!