A cold day in January…

It was pretty cold this morning, with “real feel” temps in the mid teens, so the trail was in good shape, and I just about had it all to myself. The critters were keeping a low profile, and I didn’t see much more than a chickadee until I got to where the mallards hangout north of the falls. There, as I scanned the crowd for interlopers, I spotted one that looked darker than the rest.

Sure enough, it is an American black duck (Anas rubripes), which, as the good folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology explain, “hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck.” Here’s another shot which is not quite as clear but shows off the pretty blue patch on its wing.

Anyway, as I was standing there on the shore, wondering if I was seeing something new or wasting my time and film while freezing my fingers and buns, just about all the mallards suddenly took flight, and it was such a stunning sight that I didn’t even think to take a picture. As I watched the spectacle unfold with my mouth agape, I saw the cause of all the commotion, an American bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) gliding overhead, once again about even with the treetops. I guess a few dozen mallards in the air was not what it had in mind because it simply turned around and headed back north, and this is all I’ve got to show for it. If you squint, you can just make out the white tail and maybe even the white head.

Here’s hoping that these sightings go the way of the great blue heron last summer, eh? Some of you may recall that I didn’t even get a picture the first time I saw one. Then I got a picture as one flew away. It was only on the third opportunity, that I finally managed to do the right thing. After that, they were seemingly everywhere.

Well, back in the here and now, the common mergansers were also back on the river, and this time there were four of them; three males and a female. “And furthermore Suzan, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that all four of them habitually smoked marijuana cigarettes…” Just kidding. They don’t even have fingers, so that’s not very likely.

Well, there you have it. A cold-*ss day in January, and we get to add yet two more new species to our list. Who’d’ve thunk it? Certainly not me.

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

3 thoughts on “A cold day in January…

  1. My husband saw a bald eagle in Estabrook about 2 months ago and we’ve been looking ever since! Way to go on capturing that majestic picture!


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