Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Getting Ready to Do It

It may be snowing today, here in Seattle, but I saw a clump of yellow crocus on Sunday, and as far as local waterfowl go, it's spring. These days I hardly recognize the (male) ducks that are wearing "nuptial plumage." (The duck in the picture to the left, for instance, is a green-winged teal with nuptial plumage.) I've noticed that some of them are beginning to spend time out of the water, waddling about in the weeds, and hunkering down on logs and low-hanging branches. On Sunday, a showy mallard climbed up onto the shore, walked straight toward me, stopped a foot short of me and paused for about half a minute to look around before continuing on his way. And when I saw a pie-billed grebe carrying a piece of water weed in his bill, I looked around for the female he was likely trying to impress. (Didn't see her, though. But since grebes are accomplished divers, she might well have been busy below.) Every visit to the Union Bay Fill, lately, has been more than usually fascinating.

I'm most curious right now about the behavior of the area's Great Blue Heron. Last week we saw several of them, roosting high in the branches of a tree not far from the resident eagles' nest. I was surprised, not only because I'd never seen more than two blue herons at the same time in the same place before, but also because I thought only two lived in the vicinity. And then on Sunday, eight blue herons came flying in over the lake, swooping low over the cove; one of them headed straight for the blue heron half-hidden in the reeds, fishing, that I'd been watching. And then both of them rose into the air and joined the others. All of them then found perches to occupy in the same two trees I'd see them in just a few days before. I'm so used to thinking of them as solitary (especially in comparison with most other waterfowl) that it seems strange and wonderful to see them hanging out in a crowd. Will they be nesting in those trees? Considering what enemies the eagles are of great blue herons-- probably the single biggest threats to their eggs and hatchlings-- it would seem to be an extraordinary choice for nesting.

No comments: