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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Deep Freeze at Kingfisher Cove

Are you curious how the creatures of Kingfisher Cove are handling the plummeting temperatures?
 This morning the cove was mostly covered in ice.

While a couple of days ago the cove was nearly ice free, 

even then there was still frost all around Union Bay.

By midday much of the frost melts off and birds seem to magically appear. However, not all the birds are very active. Those wishing to simply retain heat seem to know that a spherical shape exposes the least surface area and that sitting still burns the least amount of energy. It is a bit unclear where this heron is storing its head.

And even when he pops his head up he retains a lot of heat by not exposing his long neck to the cold. Other birds choose a similar strategy of ...

...sitting in the sun, fluffing their feathers and ...

...hunkering down into balls in order to retain their body heat.

However some birds remain rather active...

...even in the cold weather. The wood ducks, the gadwalls and some of the mallards seemed to work the shallowest ice-free zones...

...while the pied-billed grebes and the hooded mergansers stay out in deeper water with room for diving. Do you wonder if they have an instinct that keeps them from chasing fish under the ice. 

The female kingfisher comes in for a landing on one of her usual perches. However after a few moments of staring down at the ice decides...

...the fishing may be better above the ice-free portion of the cove and relocates appropriately.

This morning The Pirate passed over Kingfisher Cove rather quickly. 
He (or she) stopped for a few moments in a cottonwood high above the WSDOT peninsula before moving on to a tall tree on Foster Island. With the "best seat in the house" it watched the folks practicing ice hockey next to the southeast bridge to Foster Island.

Before too long the crows showed up to voice their displeasure at the hawk's presence. However after a few loquacious minutes and a couple of brave strafing runs the crows took their opinions and left.

On Friday morning the eagles were seen on Foster Island and at least for a time seemed to avoid their usual perches on the light poles, perhaps put off by the loud noise of the pile-driving from the 520 construction. This morning, with the pile driver at rest, Eva was back on her usual light pole. It will be curious to see how they respond as the noise gets closer and closer. In any case neither the eagles or the hawk seemed at all phased by the cold. Maybe the cold makes their prey slower and easier to catch.

On the whole the creatures of Kingfisher Cove seem to be adapting rather well to the cold and the ice, however having not seen the heron hunting makes one wonder, how the heron would handle these temperatures if they lasted for longer than a week or so.

Have a great day on Union Bay...were nature shivers in the city!



  1. Great shots as always. What kind of camera are you using?

    1. Thank you! I use Canon cameras, mostly because I had a Powershot to begin with and I just kept moving up. If I was starting fresh I would definitely consider Nikon. Glazers has a rental program that is a great way to compare before investing in one particular kind of camera.

  2. Hi Larry,

    How big is the RT? We may have seen him just west of the pier at the end of 37th Ave E., but since we're still new bird-watchers we weren't sure. The bird we saw was very large, probably as big as the female Broadmoor eagle, and was perched on top of a tree about 40 feet tall. It looked bigger than the RTs I'm used to seeing while driving down I-5, but that could have been because he/she was so close!

  3. According to my old Bird Guide the Red-Tailed Hawks average length is 18" with a wing-span of 48", while an average Bald Eagle has a length of 32" with a wing-span of 80". If you look at the prior post (Ripples of Power) there is a shot where the RT tries to scare the eagle away from her food. It is a great chance to compare their sizes. None the less a bird with a four foot wing-span sitting near by is definitely impressive. Congrats! :-)