Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where Are the Bald Eagles today? And Even More Mysterious, What Doesn't That Red-tailed Hawk Want Me To See? And Could That Possibly Be Mr. M?

Looking for Bald Eagles?

First stop-The Riverview, a food establishment which, you guessed it, has a dynamite view of the river near the dam in Indian Ford, WI.

Open water in winter. That's the ticket.

The Riverview is a place in which the cook, the waitress, or a local patron eating the Eggs Benedict at this very small cafe, will have the latest information about where the Bald Eagles are or might be today.

What a great excuse to have a dynamite breakfast and get the latest Eagle report at the same time.

Except since I was last here in the sleet and frozen mist white out, there has been milder weather and the river is completely open. No reason for the Eagles to be hanging reasonably close to the open water of the dam so you can easily spot them.

But as Jim the cook says, "You never know what you might find."

Instead of the hundred mallards of the other day, a pair glides by giving me the eye in case I stashed my breakfast toast in my pocket.

They were right. I did.

What is that?

A diving duck not the least interested in toast for one thing.

The other thing is, I didn't know what it was but photographer Francois Portmann did.

It's a Ring-necked Duck.

As I was as unfamiliar with this duck as I am with most water fowl I went googling. And one site I visited was the Cornell Lab's
All About Birds website, in which I discovered a most peculiar thing. Notice anything odd about these two entries about the Ring-necked Duck below?

"The most common diving duck to be found on small ponds in migration, the Ring-necked Duck is more easily recognized by the bold white ring around its bill than the subtle purplish one around its neck."

"Both the common name and the scientific name "collaris" refer to one of the Ring-necked Duck's most inconspicuous field marks. Rarely visible in the field, the chestnut collar on the black neck is noticeable when the bird is in the hand. Such subtle characters would have been obvious to the people first describing the duck from dead specimens."

I sent them an email to help them avoid any further embarrassment unless of course the duck has two collars.

Particularly interesting as you can't see the color for yourself very well without shooting the duck or finding someone with a bird skin.

Right. So how about those Bald Eagles?

Do you see any?

I finally did find one way over there--far far away. If you look very very carefully you may see a speck of white that is the Eagle's head instead of a clump of snow on a branch.

Here she is looking down at a passing duck.

Then she just turns away and stays there until she takes to her wings.

Love those tail feathers.

No more joy at the dam but I'd heard that there had been an Eagle sighted flying over Lake Koshkonong on HWY 59 near Newville earlier in the day.

I'm off.

I'm making my way toward Newville when a Bald Eagle flies right across the highway in front of me. WHAT!!! I jerk the car over on the shoulder, grapple for my camera...

And LOOK! More tail feathers.

And guess which way she is going?

It's a couple of miles away but what's that to a Bald Eagle on a sunny winter's day? She could well be heading for the Indian Ford Dam to chat with Eagle friends. Maybe go for the fish fry at the Riverview?


No joy at the Newville Bridge or the Edgerton Pond or anywhere else. But just maybe I'll see a Red-tail, the raptor closest to my heart, on the way home. And if I'm careful maybe the hawk will sit there a bit so I can watch him hunt.

A few seconds ago there was a Red-tailed Hawk on that wire.

Look! I even drove over to another road in hope of not disturbing him but nope. He left the wire and is currently flying underneath it and back towards me.

Towards me?

See there he is! And he is definitely looking left which of course isn't where I am.


Eye contact with a mate?

Still looking left. Interesting. Also this is territory belonging to Mr. and Mrs. M whose nest in the oak tree in the middle of the field we watched a couple seasons back. Could this be Mr. M?

Then it's into the treeline as usual for a raptor who wishes to avoid too much notice but why choose to go this direction past me rather than up or down the road which would have put him out of my sight almost immediately?

It is interesting that though he was in the treeline he then cuts across beside me again in full view. Perhaps this is one of the Ms standard "Look At Me!" not my nest ploys?

Over the cypress..

Into the trees...

Now what?

He flies in full view so I have to turn my back completely away from the direction that he kept looking and in which there might be something to protect.

Then a curve away...

... and a curve back around to turn me even further away from his original focus point and then he's into trees and? He's completely disappeared in a blink..

Oh I do so love Red-tailed Hawks.

They don't always just show you their tail feathers and flee. They often give you something to think and wonder about for the rest of the day before they disappear.

Donegal Browne

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