Winter Wildlife

The wildlife changes around ECO during the winter.  Migratory birds leave us, grasses and heathers loose their color, but winter brings us some equally fantastic wildlife sights!  Here’s a few notable things that have crossed out kayaks this winter!

Longtail Cockawee – Old Squaw Ducks

Common during winter in the sheltered bays. They are a long tailed, medium sized sea duck.   The drake is identified by the split tail feathers. The Old Squaw is generally not hunted for game. The males are vocal and have a musical yodelling call. They feed by diving for mollusks, crustaceans and some small fish. Although they usually feed close to the surface, they are capable of diving to depths of 200 feet.

American Mink

These  are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals in the same family as weasels, otters and ferrets.  The average lifespan of a Mink is 8 to 10 years. Female Mink have one litter per year, with six to ten cubs per litter.

Mink eat fish, mullusks, birds, eggs, and even rabbits.  Owls, bobcat, and fox are the natural predators of mink.

Loons

The loon is the size of a large duck or small goose. Like ducks and geese, but unlike coots  and grebes, the loon’s toes are connected by webbing. The bird may be confused with cormorants, a not too distant relative.  Like cormorants, they are heavy set birds whose bellies – unlike those of ducks and geese – are submerged when swimming. Loons are featured on the Canadian dollar coin, the “Loony”.

Purple Sea Monsters

These are among the most elusive of the winter species. Males prominently display a mane of Ascophyllum nodosum. The fronds of the mane can reach 2 m in length.  The upper shell is not unlike a soft-shelled crab with two distinct upper pinchers, the lower shell more resembles the sturdiness of the Maine Lobster.  There is controversy over impacts of commercial harvesting of Purple Sea Monsters. When provoked, they attack using a stick flattened on both ends. Purple Sea Monster attacks are very rare.

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