Hooded Mergansers

I saw my first-ever hooded mergansers in January of this year:

Mergansers Jan 15

Since then, I’ve seen them everywhere. At the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, prior to boarding a whale watching boat:

Merganser Feb 3

At Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge:

Merganser Feb 6

And, most recently, at First Landing State Park:

Merganser Feb 22

(In the photo above, the male seemed to be keeping watch while his mate foraged. She is partly visible in the background, captured mid-dive.)

Reviewing these photos, it’s hard to explain how I missed these lovely birds in the past. Is it possible that they were rarer in previous years? Has some imperceptible fluctuation in our weather pattern drawn them here in larger numbers than usual? Or are they like an unfamiliar word, more likely to be noticed in the days and weeks following their first recognition?

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