Well, the sun finally came out, and the wind was nice and calm, so 7°F seemed like a small price to pay for such a glorious morning. Some of the critters might probably prefer the opposite trade-off, but let’s hope that anyone not built to handle this weather has long since flown south.
Anyway, you’ll never believe who was perched high above the river to greet me soon after I got started at the south end, as if on cue.
Yup, one of the several bald eagles I’ve been seeing patrolling the river since the fall finally allowed me an audience. The sun was up, but still very low in the eastern sky, and you can see just a dabbling of that golden light filtering through the trees onto its white tail feathers. It eventually decided it wasn’t going to catch a fish there or that I had seen enough, and it glided right over me on its way farther south.
I didn’t get very far before I heard our belted kingfisher and found her hard at work already on the far shore.
At the top of the mild rapids, which keep the water mostly clear of ice, our gadwall drake was still foraging with the mallards, and his bill was still coated in a thick, protective layer of ice. By that point the river has turned west so the early morning sun can reach down to the surface and bathe everything in its beautiful glow.
Above the rapids, the river becomes wide and slow and so is completely frozen over, and there are no more ducks to see. Instead, two gray squirrels noisily burst out of their den in this tree, but a third one found the morning air just a tad too brisk, perhaps, and hung back in the entrance.
I didn’t see another bird until the north end, where I found our trio of bluebirds again…
A gaggle of geese resting on the ice…
A flock of mallards flying in…
And a pair of common mergansers busy fishing among the ice floes again.
On my way back south, I saw that the gadwall finally got his deicer working.
And back at the south end, a female downy woodpecker paused from her foraging just for a moment to confirm that I posed no threat.
And that’s not even all of it, but we’d better pace ourselves.