An adult Bald Eagle sits on the edge of the Mongaup River on 28 December 2010.

Headed out eagling again Tuesday morning, in the wake of the “big storm” that dropped a whopping 2″ of snow on Northeastern Pennsylvania – an inch of which melted away the same afternoon.  The roads were messy on the way out and there were flurries in the air ; I almost turned back, expecting a royal skunking.  But remembering the extraordinary show from the 24th, I stuck with it and managed to come home with a bit of a mixed bag.An adult Bald Eagle perches over the Mongaup River on 28 December 2010.

The eagles were out along the river again, about 6 of them.  And although they were somewhat less active this time, they still made a few passes over the water, but no strikes.  It’s curious to watch, and makes me wish I could look under the water to see what the fish are doing.  Are they there at all?  Are they just out of reach?  I think they must have been hanging out too deep, as there was a whole flock of Common Mergansers on the water actively diving.

Common Mergansers (female and male) swim on the Mongaup River on 28 December 2010.

Mergansers are strange themselves, in that I never recall having noticed them before.  Then suddenly this winter I see them frequently, at home and afar.  The part that really concerns me is that they may have been there all along, but prior to my taking a real interest in wildlife – and birds in particular – I may have seen them and simply thought “ducks,” and continued on.  With the benefit of hindsight I can say that was a woefully shortsighted attitude, and sadly one that I think too many people have.  Critters are fun to see, but we don’t put a lot of effort into really seeing them.

At any rate, it was fun to watch the Mergansers dive, although it made counting them a real challenge.  One moment a section of river was filled with them and the next, they were all gone, only to burst to the surface a distance away.  The dive communally, three or four of them descending one after another, and they resurface the same way, bobbing up in series.  (As a side note, I’ll have to do a bit of research and see if they actually hunt collectively when underwater.)

A Blue Jay feeds at a station at the Mongaup Reservoir on 28 December 2010.

I finished out at the reservoir blind, where someone had put feed in one of the trays.  A trio of Blue Jays was there when I passed earlier, and were still eating when I came back through and stopped.  From inside the blind, the feed tray is only about 7′ away, making it one of the rare instances when 420mm is too much to capture an entire bird.  The initial reaction is frustration, but I make a real effort to avoid this, reminding myself how rare it is that any bird is that large in my viewfinder!

Jays may be considered something of a nuisance at many feeders, but there’s no denying that they’re very handsome, and display a very sharp spark of intelligence the way they look at you.  This one knew full well that I was in the blind, but so long as I didn’t move too quickly, he ignored me – eating was, after all, more important.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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