For area birders, Springbank Park located in London’s west end is a popular destination. The mixed habitat and adjacent Thames River provide the perfect environment for a wide variety of birds, including waterfowl. When local lakes and ponds freeze, a large number of ducks and geese can be observed on the river within the park as it is often the only source of open water in the area.
With Great Lakes ice coverage not nearly what it has been the previous two winters, many expected far fewer ducks on the river this winter. Concentrations of ducks have not equaled that of the winters of 2014 and 2015, but local waterfowl enthusiasts, myself included, have still been treated to some spectacular views from within Springbank Park this winter, including a Greater White-fronted Goose and three Harlequin Ducks.
Over the weekend, a male Redhead could be observed in the narrow pond that parallels Storybook Gardens. This pond is typically filled with hundreds of Mallards and is often overlooked by some birders that quickly dismiss all ducks on the pond as this abundant dabbler. Those taking the time this weekend to scan the small pond were rewarded with close up views of a beautiful diver, the male Redhead.
Redheads are a medium sized diving duck. Males display a red head, black breast, and grey body. They are similar in appearance to a male Canvasback, but with a traditional duck-shaped head and not the sloping forehead of a Canvasback. Other key field marks to look for on a male Redhead are the bluish-grey bill and yellow-orange eyes. On the male Canvasback, the eyes are red and the bill is black.
Redheads feed primarily on submerged aquatic vegetation, but will also consume: snails, mussels, insects, and their larvae. I watched this duck on Saturday and Sunday as it dove repeatedly in the small pond, surfacing with aquatic vegetation. The pond seemed to offer adequate food, as the bird appeared to be feeding well.
With above seasonal temperatures on Sunday, Springbank Park was quite busy as it is one of London’s most popular multi-use parks. The male Redhead was not agitated by the constant foot traffic of adults, children, and dogs. After watching this bird feed for several minutes Sunday afternoon, it then climbed up on the bank of the pond where it proceeded to preen and settle in for a nap, unfazed by parkgoers.
If you are wishing to catch a glimpse of this beautiful duck, he was observed in the east end of the pond closest to the old pump house. There is plenty of free parking located at Storybook Gardens, with this small pond being a short walk along the paved pathway to the east. This Redhead was observed all weekend long and will hopefully continue to provide excellent views into next week.