It was, however, nice and cold last night, right here in Shorewood, so the snow and ice on the trail along the Milwaukee River was nice and firm this morning, and just as I approached the river at the very south end of the park, I glimpsed a full-on bald eagle, with white head, white tail, and sharp look in its eye, gliding south over the river about even with the tree tops. That’s definitely a first for me here in the park and perhaps a good sign for their continued recovery. I read that Milwaukee County is “the only county [in Wisconsin] where no active nests have been documented,” yet.
Sadly, with the grey skies we’ve been having lately and that seemingly will never end, any picture I took, even if I did have my camera with me, would have been just a black silhouette against a white background.
The usual crowd of mallards were scattered from there all the way to the north end of the park, and when I turned around to head back south, I spotted a bright white duck with a dark head on the water. I had seen it once before and thought maybe it was a mallard-muscovy hybrid, but it was too far away to get a good look. This time, he was closer to the eastern shore and I managed this shot with my phone.
Happily, it appears I was mistaken, and as far as I can tell, that is a male common merganser. It clearly is not a similarly colored goldeneye or bufflehead because of its distinctly long and narrow beak, which leads common mergansers to sometimes be “called sawbills“. In fact, I read further that “the word “merganser” comes from the Latin and roughly translates to “plunging goose”—a good name for this very large and often submerged duck.”
Anyway, I do believe we have seen a common merganser on the river before, back on July 29, but not a male in such full adult splendor. It appears that we are near the northern edge of their non-breeding range, and it is common enough for them to hang out with mallards in icy water that Cornell Lab of Ornithology even has a video of it from New York, of all places.
Sorry, Carolyn, no ermine pictures yet, but 2021 is off to a nice start anyway, eh?