The high-pressure system sticks around…

It was another blue-sky morning in Estabrook with temps above 0°F. What more could I ask for? The thin layer of snow on the path along the river had a wonderfully crisp crunch underfoot this morning, so I wasn’t gonna be sneaking up on anybody today.

I saw the common mergansers again first thing, but it was still a bit dark out, and I thought I’d get better pictures later on my way back south. The hooded merganser hen was a little farther north and swimming with a pair of mallards this morning, which I didn’t expect to see again, so I took her picture while I could.

At the top of the southern rapids, I was surprised to hear the belted kingfisher, and I spotted her on the far shore after a quick search. She is one tough little bird, eh?

From there, the river is frozen over all the way to the falls, so not much to see there these days. Above the falls, I only saw mallards and one goose, so I continued to the far north end, where I found this one common goldeneye drake foraging all by himself. The relatively warm water was generating a thin layer of fog in the cold air, so these long shots were a bit problematic, but I think you can get the general idea. The good news is that there’s a goldeneye hen around somewhere.

After a few days of these temperatures, the ice along the east bank is pretty thick up there, plus the water is very shallow, just in case, so I came back south on the ice to keep the sun at my back as I searched for birds in the trees and brush on the riverbank.

I didn’t see any woodpeckers today, and perhaps they’ve all retired up river, where I hear the red-headed and pileated woodpeckers hang out. Instead, here’s a little nuthatch who just found itself a tasty-looking morsel.

Here’s a mourning dove hugging the ground to keep those toes out of the breeze as much as it can.

As I approached the falls again, I could hear a gull or two calling up ahead, and I soon glimpsed the source of their excitement: a bald eagle circling over the mallards in the open water above the falls. Before I could get close enough for a picture, however, it appeared for all the world that another raptor was suggesting to the eagle that “these aren’t the ducks you’re looking for.” By the time I finally arrived on the scene, all that remained was `this red-tailed hawk high up in a tree on the far shore. It’s not always the size of the bird in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the bird, I guess.

Farther south, at the top of the mild rapids, where the open water resumes, I spotted our gadwall drake with a slew of mallards again. “Hang in there, Buddy. Only about two more months of this to go.”

At the south end, I did have better light for capturing the common mergansers, and here’s a couple of drakes, a hen, and the hooded hen tagging along with them now. I find it fascinating to see which birds are “of a feather“, and which are not.

Finally, as I headed up the bluff and back home, look who I spotted leaving no nook or cranny unexplored: an energetic little black-capped chickadee.

Now that’s how you do it.

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.

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