Monday, December 19, 2011

Ice Capades

Monday morning was sunny and cold. The winds were not scheduled to arrive until late in the morning. Hoping that the cold temperatures, had frozen part of the impoundments and brought birds closer to shore; I bundled up and headed to Great Meadows with my long lens.

Arriving at the refuge, I discovered that the overnight temperatures had been too effective and the impoundments had totally iced over. The ducks had departed to the river, leaving the impoundments to the Canada Geese and the American Coots.

While geese were content to sit upon the ice, until their scheduled departure time; the coots were much more interesting. There were several large groups and a steady stream of coots walking between the groups headed from the far end of the upper impoundment towards the lower impoundment.

Like a person in street shoes trying to cross a hockey rink; walking on ice is a task that coots are singularly ill suited to accomplish. Either they would have difficulties getting going, or once going they could hardly stop. Enjoy this brief video of them in action.



I was sort of hoping that the eagle would stop by, because that would have been a dramatic photographic opportunity. However, I did feel sad for the coots huddling together, trying to stay warm; while suddenly locked out of their food pantry. In the end I was glad the eagle didn't appear.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

If you don't like coots, you can stop now. However, since today was so different. I tried to enjoy capturing them as they dealt with the icy conditions.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;
Notice the ice crystals on some of their backs. Is this frozen from some of their last dives?


After a while the purpose of their walking became obvious. They were in search of open water and food. The migration continued to the edge of the Cross Dike Trail. Unfortunately, the passing joggers scared them back into the upper impoundment. Finally they prevailed.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


As Will pointed out the Coots are more like Rails than Ducks because they preferred to walk rather than fly. Late in the morning the wind started to pick up and they were forced to fly more. This provided some rare photos of them in flight.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


Maintaining their footing was especially challenging between the slippery ice and the forceful gusty winds.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


The temperature warmed ever so slightly opening some water in the lower impoundment. A group of coots discovered that the water was still flowing under the Cross Dike Trail bridge. I almost didn't want to bother them, but after getting some close up photos, I had to pass over the bridge on last time to head home.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

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