Today seemed a bit like an odd and dark repeat of yesterday. The temps were about the same, but the sky was blanketed by heavy grey clouds, and that seemed to throw everything off.
I only spotted a few female common mergansers on the lower river, and was doing my best to spot more, when there was a big commotion in a tree not 20 feet up the trail from me. It looked like a big hawk, of undetermined kind, had crashed into a tree, and then a smaller bird, maybe a robin, fled across the river from the crash site like a bat out of hell. I froze in hopes that the hawk would take a moment to collect itself, and I would have a chance to take a picture, but no luck. It quickly took off, too, and I was left with only the memories.
Further north, I was approaching the spot where the goldeneye’s have been hanging out, and I quietly approached the water to reconnoiter the situation from afar, when the single male, who must not have spotted me yet, led his flock downriver right towards me.
I froze again, because these birds have been especially shy all winter, and they drifted to a stop right opposite me, and now I can see that the little stud is escorting 10 females. Ha!
I read that they form monogamous pairs “between early December and April, and the pair stays together until the male abandons the female early in the incubation period,” but maybe he hasn’t read that yet, or maybe he’s just taking his sweet time. Decisions, decisions, but I’m probably mistaken if I thinking he’s the only one making them, right?
As I approached the falls, I again stopped to scope out the scene before I disturbed it, and the few mallards on the water just above the falls all took flight, just like yesterday, and sure enough, a young bald eagle, not yet in mature colors, drifted into view high overhead. This time, sadly, it and at least one companion stayed far to the north, so I couldn’t get a good look at them, let alone a picture, but it’s just as well. With the dark grey skies behind them, they’d only come out as silhouettes anyway. I did glimpse two of them performing some exciting-looking aerial acrobatics, but it is really hard to tell if it was courtship or rivalry.
After all that excitement, I finally proceeded north and as happily surprised to find the bufflehead pair, whom we haven’t seen in days, back on the water, and just as shy as ever.
By the time I walked up to the north end and back, a few mallards had already returned to the river and were busily back at work accumulating the calories they need to melt the ice off their bills.
Finally, I swung by the pond again, but didn’t see a raptor there at all today. I did spot a squirrel, and hoped it was our little red friend, especially after the visit from the Cooper’s hawk yesterday, but, from the comfort of my dining room table, today’s visitor looks decidedly grey.
Lastly, the skies, the water, the eagles, the ducks, and the squirrels may all be shades of grey today, but the male northern cardinals are still rocking their brightest red. Yee haw!