Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Winter Day Along the River

Winter along the river can be pretty brutal with a cold damp wind coming across the water and only a thin screen of trees to break the wind. On this day some of the still water was frozen, and there was little wind. Although the day started out gray and cloudy, by the time I got to the river the thick clouds were breaking up, there was some blue sky and the temperature had climbed to just above freezing, brutal it was not.

As soon as I got near the river there were a few waterfowl in sight in a patch of open water. There was ice near the shore so the ducks were quite far away, a pair of common goldeneyes –

A small flock of buffleheads –

And a group of common mergansers –

Further along a large dark wing flashed from the ice below and behind a large silver maple on top of the riverbank. The bird belonging to the wing was out of sight behind the tree, but the wing was just a preliminary movement of an adult bald eagle that flushed from the ice. The eagle flew out over the river, turned and quickly disappeared upstream, screened by a maze of branches.

The eagle was down on the ice because it was feeding on the carcass of a dead raccoon that it had dragged from the shore –

About a half mile further along the river there was the eagle, perched in a tree until it flushed again and flew out of sight –

With that I turned around and headed back downstream. In a riffle two female common mergansers were looking for fish in the shallow water near a small island

A flock of 20-25 Canada geese fed and rested in the quiet water below the riffle

And closer to shore were some lesser scaup

Except for mergansers and resident mallards there haven’t been any ducks on this section of the river all winter – these are a sign of the coming spring.

In a tree a mile further on was a peregrine falcon, this bird also screened by branches and twigs

It was the female of the pair that has nested beneath a nearby bridge. She stretched and flexed her wings, perhaps the prelude to an opportunity to photograph a peregrine in flight –

Nope, she didn’t take flight. Two hundred yards further along her smaller, lighter mate was perched in a tree with a more open crown –

The account of my riverside walk and the opportunities for photos ends with a winter stonefly that had emerged from the river –

Winter’s more than half over and spring is fast approaching with even more riverside sightings in the offing. In any season of the year there's always something interesting to see in forest and field and on the river.


Aidan Garrity said...

Saw 2 bald eagles yesterday myself, but they were juveniles. really cool bird. great photos!

Marcia said...

What is a stone fly?

Hard to believe spring is coming. The only change I see is with the sunrise and sunset times.

A nice set of photos.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Great photos! The falcon wings out is fantastic.

The Furry Gnome said...

I like the picof the two female mergansers! But the Eagle and the Peregrine are amazing! Great photos.

Kim S. said...

Ah, that female peregrine's eye and glance - love it! I must be all about the eyes with birds lately. M would be all about the stonefly and fishing is calling his name. Nice post. Full of hope. Kim in PA

David M. Gascoigne, said...

An excellent account of a winter walk, accompanied by first class photographs. People who don't live in winter regions are often surprised at the number of birds that do well in cold weather. Here it has been a good year for Snowy Owls.

eileeninmd said...


Great bird photos, you have a nice variety. I love the Ducks, Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon.

Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend!

Rain said...

Amazing photos Woody. Those Buffleheads are beautiful!

Shiju Sugunan said...

Great sightings!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Hard to believe so many critters and even insects can be spotted in the dead of winter. You saw a lot this week! Enjoy your afternoon!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Quite a day for the birds! You saw an amazing variety.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Well now, you had quite a grand day for birding! What a thrill to see so many species of waterfowl returning.