Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Easy Life

After a number of cold, grey and cloudy days it has been wonderful to see brilliant blue sky filled with sunshine. Yesterday afternoon those who were standing on the north shore of the Union Bay looking towards Yesler Cove were surrounded with life.
Off shore a huge raft of wigeons and coots were constantly dipping their heads for food while paddling in seemingly aimless circles.  Nearby red-winged blackbirds were calling to each other with noisy variations of "koKang-gaRee". 

Near shore a pied-billed grebe popped up to watch carefully for danger before silently disappearing below the water's surface. 

Usually the grebe would dive into the water but occasionally it would seem to magically sink below the surface leaving barely a ripple in its wake. It was as if lead weights were suddenly attached to the bird's feet. It makes one wonder what tricks of nature enable such a maneuver.

Closer to shore male mallards benefited from having the courage to work the shallows in close proximity to humans. 

In among the wigeons and coots a cormorant would briefly come up for air before returning to chase fish through the dark and cold of the underwater world. 
Once fed the cormorant came and sat on a log while it drying its feathers.

At least once a bald eagle passed over head which caused the wigeons and coots to take to the air. One could question whether the coots actually flew or simply beat their wings to enable them to run like nervous Nellies across the surface of the water. In either case neither type of bird went far. They simply circled out from under the eagle's flight path before returning to nearly the same spot. They did seem to bunch up in a tighter group. Maybe this implies that coots know applied statistics e.g. the eagles tend to catch the stragglers on the tail of the bell curve.

However the stars of yesterday's show were two pairs of trumpeter swans basking in the sunlight just outside Yesler Cove. 
Evidently their morning feeding was easy and fulfilling because they seemed to spend all afternoon sleeping, grooming and stretching.

Long necks are a huge benefit when trying to keep white feathers sparkling clean.

Don't try this at home.

Even this could be challenging.

After all the strenuous grooming a little napping was in order.

Although it did seem they even groomed a bit in their sleep. Keeping a clean white exterior can be challenging.

Occasionally they would awaken and stretch a bit just to get the kinks out.

May your weekend to be as peaceful and relaxing.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!



  1. According to my reading, both Pied-Billed Grebes and Ruddy Ducks have the ability to simply sink themselves by compressing their feathers, rather than by diving.

    Nice photos, as always.

    Max Warner Tacoma

    1. Max, Thank you for explaining one of nature's tricks. So the air in their feathers must usually be just enough to keep them afloat and then when they push it out they are just heavy enough to sink. So evidently "being light as a feather" only holds true when the feather or feathers are filled with air. :-)

    2. Wikipedia says:
      Grebes have unusual plumage. It is dense and waterproof, and on the underside the feathers are at right-angles to the skin, sticking straight out to begin with and curling at the tip. By pressing their feathers against the body, grebes can adjust their buoyancy. Often, they swim low in the water with just the head and neck exposed.


    3. Very cool! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I also love watching them sink into the water. Here are some pics I took of the process at Green Lake: http://imgur.com/a/OkvaF

    1. Max, That is a very nice sequence that illustrates the point perfectly. Thanks again!