Thursday, January 1, 2009

Winter Birding

It was pretty darn cold yesterday, but where there are birds, I follow. One of the listserves I check for bird sitings was reporting a Harlequin Duck at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. I haven't figured out how to digiscope yet with my equipment, so I wasn't able to get a picture, but we did locate the fabulous bird and watch it a long while. The American Wood Duck, which is frequently seen in Minnesota, is much more colorful, but the Harlequin Duck is rarer, being considered a sea duck. In fact, owing to its peculiar vocalization, it is sometimes referred to as a sea mouse. A Harlequin Duck spent the winter in the same spot last year, so this may be the same fellow. He was the sole Harlequin Duck in a huge gathering of Common Goldeneyes, Scaup and Canada Geese. There was a sole Canvasback as well. Several other birders were patrolling the riverbank, and they reported seeing an Iceland Gull and a Herring Gull. I don't know my gulls, but I'm pretty sure I saw these two as well.

At Point Douglas Park, we also saw tundra swans. There were two adults and four juveniles. How these birds survive the cold, especially their feet, is due to their unique circulatory system that allows for heat exchange between blood coming from the feet and from the bird's body. My own fingers and toes were painfully cold after a short while.

We saw an immature Golden Eagle. The bird had the broad dark tail band, topped by a light patch that helps distinguish the immature Golden Eagle from an immature Bald Eagle. It was flying over the confluence area, low enough to get a good look. We another Golden Eagle, perched, with its back to us showing its diagnostic tawny neck.


twinsetellen said...

That first photo is enchanting and mysterious.

I had no idea Golden Eagles came about here. Cool!

Two Cables and a Frapp said...

This is such a nice post. Your photos are lovely as is your blog.