Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Erieau in early January

I hadn't been out to Erieau for awhile, and with the frosty weather, I wondered what the ice conditions were like. Of course more ice, as long as there is some open water, means that any waterfowl persisting in the area will be a little more concentrated. Such conditions can make photographing them, while using the car as a blind, more productive. And of course with the intensity of the wind and cold, being in a vehicle isn't such a bad idea either!

The clouds were heavy, giving flat light to any photos I attempted. But that is the way it sometimes is.

There were the inevitable flocks of Canada Geese. Most of the time they were hidden in the sheltered area behind the far breakwall, but on several occasions, flocks would get up and fly to a new location. There must have been at least 1500 birds in the area altogether.

One of the reasons for them getting stirred up might have been the presence of a couple of Bald Eagles, an adult and immature. They didn't come all that close to me, and neither of them made any attempts to directly harass the geese, but the geese sure seemed extra nervous.

Various species of ducks were around in quite small numbers. There was a single Canvasback.

There were 5 Redheads, including this male.
One of the most common ducks was Common Merganser, and there were about 30 of them.
Out off the rocks on the opposite side of the channel there was a mix of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, scaup, Mallards and American Black Ducks. I was hoping a Harlequin Duck may have joined them, but I didn't see one.

Closer, and in the channel, was this female Redhead, below. It shows a little more white around the base of the bill than female Redheads normally would show. There are other characteristics that don't fit the 'normal' look of a female Redhead, but given that this genus (Aythya) of ducks regularly hybridize, it is possible that this individual might have some other species' genes somewhere in its heritage. A lot can depend on what stage it is in its moult as well, and individuals can vary.

You can get an idea of how cold it was by the ice clinging to the forehead feathers!
And two Mute Swans.

The skies were gray, with a hint of snow in the air. It made for an interesting setting for the light beacon across the channel, quiet at this time of year as there is no boat traffic.

On the way home, I noted a couple of Red-tailed Hawks protecting their food source. Turns out that there are a few less American Crows living among us! I'm not sure whether the Red-tails killed the crows or not, but there were at least 5-6 dead crows in the field. By this time it was getting even duller, so it made getting any photo at all a bit of a challenge.

So nothing terribly is a quiet time of year. There were only a couple of gulls to be seen at Erieau, which is typical of this time of year when most of them seem to go at least to the southern side of the lake in January, but they will be back in February or early March, with some of them sporting some fresh, clean feathering and brightly coloured legs and mouths. Here is a photo of two Ring-billed Gulls I took several years ago, looking at their best!

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