Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter Counts

I toil through the shallows of the east marsh, made worse by the absurdly low level that the dam keepers have chosen to hold the lake at during the winter. Just as I reach the open water of the bay with its light, cold and raw north wind in my face, it begins to snow. This is a treat for me, a Minnesota boy who misses winter more than anything, and to have it snow while I am canoeing warms my very core more than I can say.
The flapping of wings on the far side of the bay, and a wide line of flapping that it is, signals that there is likely an eagle in the area. When I am about 1/2 way across, I spot two eagles in the railroad island perch. It should be the residents from the north nest, as they would not tolerate any others in that spot. I paddle in, keeping my distance so as not to disturb them, but I overestimate my stealth and they fly off to another part of the bay. They are in hunting mode and will not leave until they have caught a coot, which I am sure they will do. I've watched these two before and they are exceptionally skilled hunters.

Below - beginning the brief hover before attacking.
I pause out of the wind along the north marsh, and when I continue, nearing the north point, I find myself on the edge of an eagle's hunting circle. It has just forced two coots to dive not 10 yards from me and so the eagle circles and hovers over my head. The coots escape, my accidental presence just enough of a distraction to the hunter.

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