Monday, August 18, 2014

A Morning at Montezuma Refuge

Unlike last week, when my trip was a dud, today at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge was just what I expected, and maybe a little more.

Found the Trumpeter Swans with their seven cygnets. Actually, they approached us, as we observed the marsh.  I'd seen them before, but they had not come close.

The seventh cygnet is hiding behind number three from the left. It's a challenge to capture an image with all seven clearly visible.  The one time that I did, one adult was out to the side.

I noted that at all times, at least one adult was extremely watchful. Probably why they have so many surviving.  The young seem to have adopted the same watchfulness.

The most common question from visitors at the refuge is where to find an eagle.  It seems seeing one trumps all other reasons to visit the refuge.  There are a great number of juveniles present currently. I suspect many first time visitors fail to recognize an eagle if it doesn't have a white head.   This juvenile was only 30 yards distant.  It appears that these "teenagers" mostly watch for an Osprey to appear with a fish so they can steal a meal. That requires less effort and a lot less skill than catching their own fish. This will end when the Osprey migrate south in the fall.

There are may other interesting birds that are largely ignored.The two birds below are Double-crested Cormorants.  I first discovered these while working for the Navy on Chesapeake Bay.  The watermen working the crab and oyster trade called them Water Witches or Snake Birds. They do move through the water with great agility and dive to great depths.

There are also a substantial number of Caspian Terns on the refuge. They will fly across the open water and suddenly pull up to hover over a spot prior to plunging vertically down into the water.  Typically the tern will emerge with a small fish in the beak.  It is quickly swallowed and the hunt continues.

But sometimes it must be that a tern gets a larger fish, and it too becomes a target for a juvenile thief.  That is what I witnessed today.  There on a shallow flooded pool was a tugging match between an adult Caspian Tern and a juvenile. It lasted for nearly two minutes. Seen below, the juvenile (on the right)  has the whites flects on its head.

I don't know who finally got the sunfish. The fight ended abruptly as both opponents scattered wildly.

It was a pretty good morning this time.  It was worth waking up at 4:00 a.m. this time.


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