A male common merganser, fishing in Montlake Cut, swims through reflections on the water.
The constantly curving shapes are so mesmerizing it can be challenging to focus on the bird.
More and more, wild creatures all over the planet are being forced to live in our reflections. In these photos the birds are fishing in a totally manmade waterway, created in 1916. The Cut changed the drainage of Lake Washington and lowered the water level by nearly 10 feet.
If given half a chance nature adapts. The merganser spots potential prey and begins its dive. The relatively long tail pushes down on the water while its feet push the bird up. The neck and the head extend, while the bird remains intently focused.
The female has a crested, red head instead of the smooth, dark green head of the male. Her body is grey instead of the crisp black and white of the male. Only the females have a white chin.
Both male and female mergansers will often swim with their heads in the sand, so to speak, while they search the depths for the flash of an unfortunate fish.
Their diving maneuver is the same for both genders. Once their sawtoothed bills close on a fish it is over fairly quickly.
… a male against a similar background. If it wasn't for the similar look of their long, slender bills, with the down-turned tips, one might think they were different species, not just different genders.
The mission of the this blog is to help develop harmony between humanity and nature.
The question is, what can we do as individuals, and as a society, to insure our children have the opportunity to share Union Bay with these wild and wonderful creatures.
The easy answers are keep oil and pesticides out of the water.
We could build rain gardens that keep heavy rain from washing oil off the streets and into the waterways.
More challenging tasks include things like driving less and daylighting local creeks so salmon and other fish can return and reproduce in their normal habitats.
If we could get even a portion of the original salmon runs established, nature's response would be a significant increase in birds like mergansers, grebes, cormorants and eagles.
Speaking of cormorants, even they look more elegant when photographed in our reflections.
While I was watching the mergansers, Elvis came and worked his way among the cottonwoods along the north side of the Cut.
It is almost like they defy gravity. I wonder what they do with their feet and tails, to appear so stationary in the water.
Another similarity between the female and the male mergansers, they both have white patches on their wings.
Although, on closer inspection, even those are not exactly alike.
Evidently, the fish is so heavy that the lead bird cannot fly with the extra weight. So he is not just paddling with his feet, but also thrashing through the water with his wings, as he races to keep his lunch. The two birds made long curving tracks of froth across the water as they churned around the Cut.
In desperation, no doubt hearing the cries of an approaching gull, the lead bird coordinates the actions of his feet, wings and head.
With feet paddling and wings churning, the bird turns the fish head first in its mouth and swallows it whole, without breaking stride. A living example of, survival of the fittest.
Here are a few more shots of these wonderful creatures that live in our reflections.
Have a great day on Union Bay…where nature lives in the city!