For the past week or so, a duo of male American Wigeons has been spotted foraging along the coastline. They dip and dabble, close to the shore, and are eating sea lettuce and seaweed.

American Wigeon male eating sea lettuce

Smaller than a Mallard but larger than a Bufflehead, the punky male flashes a brilliant green swath across the eye and has a beautiful baby blue bill. The males were are also colloquially called “Baldplate” because the white patch atop his head resembles a bald man’s head.

Oiling their feathers (called preening) and constantly aligning the feathers keeps the ducks both afloat and aloft.

Notice how the water forms beads on the duck’s breast, a sure sign the feathers are well-oiled. Ducks have a gland at the base of their tail called the uropygial gland (you can also say preen gland or oil gland). The preen oil creates a protective barrier that prevents the feathers from becoming waterlogged.

I like to think of the American Wigeon as both spunky and punky. Spunky because of the way they bounce back after diving in rough surf. Punky because of their occasionally holligan-like behavior.

Last year when first encountering American Wigeons I didn’t understand why the Mallards were so aggressive towards the Wigeons, snapping and nipping at the pair whenever they got too close to the Mallard’s meal. Now I see why. American Wigeons often feed alongside other ducks, especially diving ducks such as Coots. The Wigeons opportunistically snatch away the aquatic vegetation the divers pull up although, our two travelers were quite amicable and while feeding together, not in the least hoodlumish toward each other.

Watching the ducks tumbling around in the rough surf while casting about for food is a site I won’t soon forget. It was beautiful to see the Wigeon’s surf dance but also a window into their daily struggle for survival. I marveled at the ducks’ resilience. Roughly a third of migrating birds that winter each year in the mainland of the United States do not survive the journey.

The pair has not been since that morning foraging in the choppy waves. Perhaps they took a cue, of winter weather yet to come.

For many weeks during the late winter and early spring of 2017, a male and female American Wigeon made Rockport their home, and now we have had these two feisty boys. I wonder if the Wigeon’s winter range is expanding northward or if we are merely a stopover on their southward migration. Most of the migration occurs further west and south so I think we are pretty fortunate to have this dynamic duo visiting our shores.

Appropriately Busy or Over-Scheduled?

I often joke, maybe even complain, about the schedule that we (and many other families) keep. It is met with a mixed bag of opinions. Some people applaud and appreciate the long weekends and busy days that our boys tend to have. Other people find it to be “too much”…detrimental even, so I’ve been told. I do understand both sides of the argument. Truly.

That having been said, I can tell you that we only do it because our boys love it. And, after weekends like this, I am incredibly proud of their determination, stamina, and commitment.

Thatch skated hard late Friday night with a short handed Rockport Middle School team. After getting home at 10:30 he was up at 5:00am to play in Haverhill with Cape Ann PW1. With no downtime in sight, he went directly to the Coast Guard Station for three hours of Sea Perch training and annual inspection prep with the Navy Sea Cadets. He was dismissed at noon and we drove directly to Rhode Island for two big Coyotes games. Back in Rockport at 10:00, and totally wiped, he managed to tackle his math homework patiently and without fuss.

Over-scheduled?  Perhaps.  Dedicated?  Absolutely.  Was he happy to be in all of the places he was?  For sure.  Being a part of these teams, groups, and organizations means everything to him.  

I love him and all that he gives. I also love all that their sports, interests, and activities have added to our family dynamic….especially the friends it has added to our lives. We’re pretty lucky.

So, is there a fine line between appropriately busy and over-scheduled?  No doubt it depends on the child.  But, until one of the boys asks us to do things differently, we’ll keep on going on.


Photo courtesy of Adam Curcuru
Photo courtesy of Mark Leonard
Photo courtesy of Robert Pallazolla