Text and photos by Ken Marsh.
Goldeneyes are hardy birds. Stout and solidly built, they’re “Alaska tough,” waterproof by design and apparently weatherproof, too. Even in January when Anchorage area waterbodies are locked tight in ice, goldeneyes are never far away. They winter just over the far side of the Kenai Mountains, in the saltwater of Resurrection Bay out of Seward, or Kachemak Bay near Homer.
They’ll dodge icebergs all day long, allowing there’s open water in between offering crustaceans and mollusks – crabs, shrimp, and mussels – for food.
So it’s never much of a surprise to see them back the moment open water appears in Southcentral Alaska’s lake and rivers. At the moment they’re not only back in strong numbers to Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon, but feeling frisky and in the courting mood. The males (black heads; females have brown heads) crane their necks and employ goofy contortions of all sorts to impress hens.
Having them back reminds us that springtime has come with them. We may have a hard freeze or two left before May eases in, but that won’t matter to the goldeneyes. They’re here for the duration, ready to receive the season’s first geese and ducks as they, too, arrive.