If you have been out and about during the past couple of weeks, you might be tempted to classify the bird life as somewhat boring. The Bottoms are essentially frozen. Geese have a few spots open, and the ducks are mostly Mallards. I counted 14 eagles on the ice a couple of days ago. They follow the waterfowl with great intensity, and several were feeding on geese carcasses within 50 yards of the resting geese. I always wonder if the geese are upset by watching their cousins become lunch. It is exciting to see the geese launch when the eagles come by-- they fully recognize trouble. All this happens too far out on the ice to get a decent photograph, but the drama is real and intense through the binoculars. It is a gift to have the time to sit and watch in the quiet (except for the noisy geese) early morning.
It is much more interesting to me to watch the hawks. Red-tailed hawks, Rough-legged hawks, Northern Harriers, Merlins, Kestrels-- they are all very busy with their feeding processes. They conserve energy by sitting on a perch and scanning the ground for rodents primarily. Kestrels are beautiful smaller falcons most often seen sitting on the telephone wires-- often mistaken for doves until you check the colors and beak. They eat bats, rodents, bugs and birds. The Northern Harriers are sleek busy hunters-- feeding mostly on rodents and small mammals. The frozen marsh makes the mammals much more visible. Look for a slender body and a white rump patch on the Harriers.
I do admit that this time of year is not as “active” as when the migration is happening and we have lots of birds. Surviving the winter and frozen marsh is hard for these beautiful birds -- but they are well-equipped and talented. The over-all action is a bit slow, but the process is quick when it happens so you have to be alert. Go see them now, because the ice is on its way out and these birds will follow the food as it heads north. Spring is just a whisper away.