White-winged Scoters, Blue-winged Teal, and a Bald Eagle

A small flock of White-winged Scoters came flying over the dunes toward the pond, black ducks with white patches flashing in their wings. They dropped down and settled onto the water, disappearing from site behind another island. Two small, brown Pied-billed Grebes floated in the water like toy ducks, while two gray American Coots and one Common Moorhen with its startling red-orange bill lurked around the edges of the grassy islands.

Way across the pond, on a stretch that looked like sand, lay several dark-gray shapes that at first I didn’t even think were birds, because they were so still. Then suddenly they all flew up in a flutter of cinnamon color – and disappeared back onto the water behind the same island of tall grass that hid the scoters. For many minutes they stayed out of sight, but eventually two came swimming out into an open area where I could just barely see them – and through a scope saw a gray head and face marked with a prominent white crescent. The body looked mostly cinnamon, with a white patch near the back of the wing. They were Blue-winged Teal. Eventually several more floated out into the open water where I could see watch them for several minutes.

Meanwhile, the pines beside the platform where I stood had begun to fill with Double-crested Cormorants. Two or three dozen of them sat in the branches of the trees, making strange, harsh calls and behaving in a way that looked irritable with each other. They made some amazing sounds. At one point, two of them were either fighting or courting – it seemed hard to tell, though it didn’t look friendly. In the other direction, a little further away, the white egrets sat mostly quiet in the green vegetation, some preening, a few restless, others just sitting, their feathers and plumes ruffled by the wind.

It was a magical afternoon when time passed, and the scene changed, but it felt like a place out of time, more like stepping into a complex, colorful painting, with myriad stories and details in its sweep that I could have watched for hours and still kept finding new things.

I think I was looking up, watching an Osprey flying over, when I heard something and looked down in time to see the huge, dark-brown wings and white head and tail of a Bald Eagle just as it dropped its feet to the surface of the pond with a splash, picked up a fish and flew away. It didn’t look as if it had been diving or flying fast. It looked almost casual, as if it were going to land in the water, with wings outspread, legs and feet down – and it just picked up the fish and flew, holding the fish in its talons. I didn’t see the Eagle approach, or what happened right before it came for the fish, but there were several other birds around it, though not one of the Ospreys. So it’s possible the Eagle had stolen the fish from another bird, but if so, I missed it.

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