Fall is a time of courtship, and early in the week it still felt like the kinder, gentler part of the season. Maybe that is where the term Autumn came from. Yellow leaves were still in the trees and the sunshine still felt warm. However, the midweek cold stopped the flow of sap in the trees and wiped away the last traces of summer. In just a few days, tons of leaves have dried up and fallen. Now every footstep creates a crackling, crunch and the icy water signals that winter is creeping down out of the Arctic.
Speaking of ice, can you see the ice on the spruce cones?
The summer birds, apparently smarter than us, have headed south. The winter birds have been arriving for some time. We now have Buffleheads (with iridescent feathers), Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, Green-winged Teals (first photo) and many more moving in around the bay. Everywhere, bright new feathers are on display. Both male and female birds are cleaning and preening and trying to look their best.
The colors of the male Gadwall are subtle, and yet, brilliantly crisp all at once.
None the less, there is always one last feather to adjust.
Did you just lean your head to the right? If so, I suspect it is a self-preservation instinct, to help us make sense of what we see. These little things remind us, we have more in common with our fellow forms of life, than with the technology that permeates our lives.
...then she deploys her air brakes…
…before diving head first into the water. Can you see the color on her beak and the dark of her eye, underneath the water flowing around her head?
Who knew she had "water" wings?
It can be hard to make heads or tails of her approach. First she is down...
…then she is up.
I guess this is the part...
...where the instructions say…
..."Repeat until fully satisfied with the experience!"
Finally, she shakes off the excess water.
Then she crawls up on a log to dry off...
…but first a little stretching…
…a bit of preening...
...and then a final air drying.
The behavior of this male Gadwall may seem similar to the bathing sequences above;
however, the following activities appear to be territorial in nature.
The bottom line, "This female is mine!"
Also, as part of the Bufflehead courtship, the couples appear to do nearly-synchronized diving. Often, the male seems to be slightly behind; although, in this case, the speed of his dive is so fast that his body is still up in the air before gravity can suck water into the spot he just vacated.
This is the same bird as in the earlier iridescent photo, but with the light at a different angle; he now appears only black and white.
Did you notice the Chickadee in the earlier photo?
This is one hearty, little, northwest bird that knocks the ice off the cones to get to the seeds.
This is most likely a Marsh Wren with a morsel in its mouth and its tail in an odd balancing formation.
This is most likely a Cooper's Hawk, hidden at the very top a a tall tree on Foster Island, crowing at the sun, early on Monday morning.
By the weekend, Kingfishers were forced away from their normal locations due to ice covering their prefered sites.
Have a great day on Union Bay…where nature lives in the city!