Monday, February 05, 2007

Very cold

Minus nine degrees this morning. In just a few days, Hoffman Pond has completely iced over except for a patch of open water just above the Boys Dam. The swans have moved onto the ice at the edge of the open areas, but haven't been swimming much. A flock of doves sat around in the trees by the edge of the water for a while, and the kingfisher showed up although I didn't see him fishing. There is a busy grebe, that's about it.

Yesterday there was more open water and more birds. Six very very tiny diving ducks, which I think are female bufflehead, were fishing in the open water along with several coots and a grebe. No mallards. The swans were swimming around the open patch, normally the other birds avoid them but there is really no room.

I've been watching the birds hunting. The female bufflehead spend a while underwater, while the coot seems to leap up out of the water with a dive that's more like a pounce when he sees something edible. All of the birds have to dodge thin sheets of ice that rapidly sail toward the top of the dam.

I saw a coot with a fish too big to eat; the coot was smacking the fish on the surface of the water, trying to eat it, then smacking it again. Eventually he ate the head off, and finally the rest of the fish. Maybe it just tasted bad.

I looked up the word "bufflehead" and it seems to be "buffalo-head". Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) are closely related to the goldeneye ducks (Bucephala clangula) that I've seen a lot of this winter. I'm still surprised by how tiny the bufflehead are.