Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Death's Door, near Northport -

The waters of Death's Door are anything but quiet this time of year.  Besides daily changes in ice conditions, eagles are frequently seen in winter, more common in recent years it seems than years ago, along with rafts of ducks.

Last week, during single-digit temperature days, Northport neighbor Paula Hedeen took a series of eagle photos that she kindly shared. She uses a powerful lens with her Nikon camera, and she has patience that is rewarded from time to time with excellent shots from the deck of her home. (You may recall photos of Northern Lights taken by Paula, posted here in early December.)

One series of hers in particular I found  of interest because it shows quite graphically a pair of eagles as they zeroed in on a duck. Then one eagle grabbed it, lifted it from the water and flew to nearby ice that had formed along the shore.

Ducks provide a protein source for these large birds and seem to be as much a part of the eagle's diet as fish this time of year.

At one time, Paula photographed as many as seven eagles within the scope of her lens.  Some were completely white-headed adults, others still had brown head feathers.  Her series gives an excellent opportunity to study their powerful wing action.

This series reminded me of a ferry trip aboard the C. G. Richter many years ago, a gray winter's day when we headed out an ice-filled channel with difficulty.  As we backed up and then rammed ahead, repeating the process time and again, an eagle hovered within 25 yards to our port side in very strong  southerly wind above a ten-foot opening in the ice, waiting for a duck to surface.   Each time it did, the eagle dove, but the duck took air and dove back under.  After approximately ten minutes, during which time the duck tired, the eagle finally grabbed it, then struggled to get airborne with its prize once again. Finally, it sailed cross-wind away from us and over the treetops of Detroit Island.  Our forward progress was almost nil during this time, so we had an excellent vantage point to watch the drama unfold.

There's sometimes a tendency to think that once winter sets in, life will be long and boring, static from one day to the next, sameness all around.  But Paula's photos (and photos I will post in the blog to follow this one) are dramatic, and they help refute that point of view.  If we look around and observe, exciting changes occur daily in lighting, in weather, in observed animal and bird activities, as well as in our own activities that reflect our efforts to adapt, endure, and survive winter in our own way.  The closer we look, the more we see - and the more we see, the more there is to enjoy about winter.  One small observation can make a difference in our day, activity that would be more easily overlooked against summer's busy backdrop.

Thanks to Paula Hedeen once again for these photos.  - Dick Purinton

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