Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Eastern Gray Squirrel

Monday, February 23, 2009

Of Winter Days and Ducks

On our trip along the Mongaup Reservoir we discovered a pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) in the icy river and stopped for quite awhile watching them work their way up along the far shore. In this frigid water, they are making long dives, coming up to preen, then back down again. We were cold even in the warm car (with the windows down so we could see better) yet the mergansers were lounging in the icy water seeming to be just a comfortable as if they were taking a slow trip in the Bahamas.

The male and female mergansers look so different one could almost think they belonged to entirely different families. The dashingly smart male has a broad rounded crest of pure white edged with jet black; the female is smaller and gray-brown on the upper part of her head. Her yellowish brown crest is shorter and more pointed, her chin whitish and the upper part of her neck and the sides of her head are a gray-brown. The males do not acquire the full beauty of their plumage until the third spring and resemble the females for their first year. During the second year the male's crest becomes more developed and the black and white markings on the head and body become more distance. It is not until the third spring that their plumage reaches its full elegance.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Soaring with Eagles

Many days, this time of year, Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soar high over our yard. I watch for them through the skylight of my loft retreat. Eagles are a magnetic sight, they always make me catch my breath, stop whatever I am doing and simply watch until they are out of sight. There is something elegant and compelling about the eagle in flight. I often find myself wishing I could stretch out wings and follow him as he glides up the river.

We drove out across Rio Dam along Plank Road to a blind operated by the Eagle Institute Every weekend through March, there are volunteers at the blind helping people spot the eagles in the trees along the reservoir and providing interesting facts about these amazing bird neighbors.
(click on photos for a larger view)

Much of the property along the Mongaup Falls Reservoir and the Rio Reservoir is part of the Eagle Refuge. Driving up along the reservoir we saw a number of immature birds, one nearly mature bird with some white on its head and a fully mature male. The highlight of the afternoon was to see an immature female who has a tracking device attached. They have been tracking her for a number of months, she perched in a tree a few dozen yards from the blind --- She (the eagle) wears a transmitter and the researchers have receivers and a small antenna which looks a lot like a hand-held TV antenna. The small receiver beeps softly and slowly gaining in number of beeps and in volume as the tracker comes closer to the bird. The tracker told us the bird was behind the blind, just across the road in the pines on the north side of the river. One of the volunteers set up a telescope, through it we were able to get a very good look at the bird.
Took some photos --- but my lens is far too short to get a photo that shows any real detail at all. I am sharing what my lens captured.