A gift?

Spied on the windshield of a truck parked on a road nearby –  a single, tiny bufflehead.

A gift from a friend?


Among the loveliest and most abundant of our local winter waterfowl, these tiny sea ducks winter on the Chesapeake before heading north to their mating grounds in Alaska and Canada. Wikipedia tells us that bufflehead have evolved to this small size in order to fit the nesting cavity of their “metabiotic” host, a woodpecker, the Northern Flicker. With a fast metabolism and a need to constantly feed to sustain their tiny size, it’s easy to spend a solid hour just watching them dive, popping up minutes later at a distance that seems ridiculously far from their entry point. The birds feed locally on mollusks and crustaceans, aquatic plants and fish eggs.

An internet search for bufflehead recipes results in the repetitive use of the word “nasty” to describe their taste. Cooking suggestions include soaking in buttermilk, brining the bird breasts, and such. One wonders why you’d bother eating such a tiny bird if it’s so widely known as “nasty”.

Watching them, however, it’s obvious why people would want to hunt them. The diving and disappearing acts that they perform are mesmerizing, and aiming at such a tiny target must be a big test.  They’re great fun to try to shoot with a camera, and quite challenging at that. A big part of our local cultural heritage, waterfowl can be found on the supper table of many families on the Eastern Shore.  Food flies in to our communities, swims up, pops out of the ground, falls from the trees. Our Mayberry friends specialize in waterfowl – Alice cooked up some mallard not long ago that was to die for (oh wait, it did) and Renny cooks the most delicious goose you’ll ever taste anywhere.

I wonder what will become of this one.

~ by kbosin on January 30, 2012.

3 Responses to “A gift?”

  1. Maybe his buddy misunderstood when he requested a “bobble-head” figure to display in the windshield ???

  2. I remember a time when I would be utterly shocked to come home to an empty house to find freshly killed geese sitting in my kitchen sink. I KNOW they weren’t there when I left! Now I know (and love) to find this unexpected surprise…a gift indeed for a cook like me.

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