Winter Getting the Shove

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I got up early again this morning. This time of year, especially, I like to get out as the sun rises. I walked slowly and quietly to the river. Robins were singing like crazy. Song sparrows were starting up. A few red winged blackbirds were rattling out to the dim light. Venus pierced the morning glow.

It was cold, about 25 degrees. I knew the day would warm up, but it was winter weather to start things off. The river, which had been frozen over, flooded over the last week. We got rain and warm weather and all that ice melted or flowed downstream. The river spilled out over the fields. Water everywhere. But last night ice started to form again. Sheets built up and then got pushed around. They cracked and smacked and popped into the morning as the river pushed them as it flowed.

Close to the river I cold hear mallards quacking their typical duck quacks. I heard other ducks as well. Wood ducks whistled, and something else made a noise halfway between a quack and a whistle. As I snuck closer I could see waterfowl of some kind swimming close to the bridge. I watched through binoculars and got as close as I dared. Ducks are skittish critters. Turns out the closest birds were hooded mergansers. Here is a pic, poorly taken from too far away in low light with my small camera, but it will give you an image of these amazing diving ducks:

IMG_3134There were seven of them. As I watched them something else made some waves. I watched a beaver part the surface as it swam with a branch in its mouth. A cardinal sang out. The ice snapped. And all through it the sky grew lighter.

I kept trying to get closer to the water and eventually all the ducks flew away. I could see them far off on the bend in the river, and I could identify some of them, but there were definitely some in there I just couldn’t ID from the distance. I listened to the water curl under the bridge. I walked a ways further up the road, listening to the dawn chorus. I heard my first phoebe of the year.

We won’t have many more days of ice, and that dawn chorus is going to get louder and louder. I will be getting out there to great the sun as many days as I can.

Wind Ice Ducks

I made the trek to the ferry landing again early this morning to see what birds are still hanging around the open water. I watched the sun rise and got there as the ferry was spinning itself around, trying to break up some of the ice that had formed in the night. It looked like the channel had frozen over, even if it was thinner there. The temperature was 1 degree when I hit the road. The ferry had some ice to break.

Ducks waiting for the day to warm up

Ducks waiting for the day to warm up

At the lake there was not much open water and a few ducks were swimming and diving down for breakfast. Most of them were sitting on the ice, however, heads tucked under wings in the cold. The wind was blowing hard so it felt mighty cold. The cove there is small. It is curious that so many ducks were hanging out on the windy ice instead of seeking shelter somewhere. Maybe they are safer from predators there.

I did see a common goldeneye in two parts. I noticed its head first–alone in a red ring of frozen blood. It was eerie. Later I noticed its body several yards away. It may have been taken by an eagle yesterday and then left there. Eagles do that sometimes. Before I left, the crows had come in to have their own breakfast. I didn’t see any eagles today.

When the ferry left, the ducks, or some of them, hit the water. Lots of them stayed asleep on the ice. I watched the divers sink and rise, sometimes coming up with shellfish or other items in their beaks. I wanted to find the tufted duck that others have seen here but I was out of luck for a second time. I am guessing, if it is still around, it is over on the New York side where there is more water. I did get to see eight different species of ducks–not bad for one spot.

I may try again tomorrow. With the wind chill below zero today, and likely tomorrow, it is a cold affair. But, again, those ducks won’t be around much longer. It is March, after all, which is the month spring starts. A month from now there should be plenty of water to go around.

Bufflehead and scaups prowling the pylons

Bufflehead and scaups prowling the pylons