Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eagle Search, Angry Geese, and Mystery Scaups

On Wednesday morning I missed a call alerting me that there were a pair of mature Bald Eagles on the ice of the Rock River off a park in Beloit. A town about thirty minutes away. By the time I got the call, got directions, got lost, very lost, several times, this is what I saw when I arrived. You'll note there are no eagles in the picture.

Feeling downright incompetent I stood there scanning, scanning, scanning the trees when suddenly I heard a tremendous din of Canada Geese honking.

With one goose in the lead, there are five in a group bringing up the rear. Are the five just slow or is number one very fast or is number one in some kind of goose trouble?

Looking at the fact that the Five, who are honking their brains out, all have their necks craned to keep One in view, and their feet swinging, I'm hypothesizing that One is in some kind of trouble.

They may see him but I don't. Don't see any eagles either for that matter I look up and down the shoreline looking for big white heads.
Wait a minute where did all the geese go?

I look up and see three tails. They have circled but where is the alleged culprit and two of the original five?

The three circle back yet again but this time there is no honking and then they too fly beyond the shoreline and disappear.
Well, I don't really know what just happened but now I'll know to look for it again and perhaps the next time...

No big birds anywhere; the air is crisp and all is quiet.
Perhaps tomorrow....

It is now tomorrow, Thursday and I'm standing in the yard of a museum. When I look down in the snow, I see some very odd tracks. They are windblown so their shapes have softened. Of course!

I've not seen them before but these are of course the tracks of webbed feet. They're too small for geese. Ducks must have come up to forage for grass and goodies in the bare spots.

I look across toward the river and there indeed is a---What? A scaup perhaps? The head has a dull greenish cast to it which might make it a Greater Scaup, Axthya marila. But I understand that head color isn't always reliable, so lets just call him a scaup for the moment. But I'm more interested in why is he here and...

...everyone else is over there? Wait a minute there is also a lone scaup on the other side of the group too. Look carefully for the speck some feet in front of where the dock meets the shore. See him?

I'm loosing the light but you can see the white patch near the bill, that would make those particular birds females of the group.

You know what? I think many of these ducks may have been napping when I originally showed up. There are still a couple with their heads tucked.
And here is the lone scaup on the far side of the flock. His head doesn't appear greenish at all it could even be considered a bit purplish, which would mean he'd likely be a Lesser Scaup.
But the question I find much more interesting is whether scaups have sentinels that remain alert while the others get some sleep.

Now having even more questions about water fowl than when I started which isn’t such a bad thing really, questions are always good, but feeling rather raptor-less, I opened the comments from the blog and guess what? There was an update from “Beakerless” of Janesville from 11am Wednesday saying—

I just saw a mature bald eagle following the river toward downtown Janesville. It was flying low over the Racine St Bridge.

It appears that while I was being lost in Beloit looking for Bald Eagles and not finding them, possibly Rock or Jane from the Janesville Rock River pair was hunting much closer to home.

Donegal Browne

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