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A Year of Birds: February

Lake Huron frozen in the winter
Lake Huron frozen in the winter

Since I am new to living in north Michigan near Lake Huron, I was surprised to discover that the bald eagle not only stays all winter long, but juveniles can often be seen hanging out near Misery Bay and other frozen marshes next to the now frozen lakeshore. They will at times hunt together along the frosty lakefront and can be seen resting in a group after their search for life-sustaining food.

I will never forget  driving down a back country road, and seeing an adult bald eagle perched on top of a tree right next to the road. I stopped my car, but unfortunately did not have my camera – only my phone – with me. He stared at me in all his majestic beauty, backlit by the evening sun, and never moved at all; I was only a few feet below him at the base of the tree.

Bald eagle perched in a tree

As the water on the lake freezes, the “water holes” of unfrozen water become smaller and smaller over time, and the landscape becomes one of frozen snow, ice and wind-swept skies. Often as I drive past Misery Bay, I see hardy ducks sitting in the bits of unfrozen water, or patches that have thawed during  warmer daytime temperatures.  I can’t help but wonder how they can stand swimming in the near-freezing water; this must be why they have downy feathers. Occasionally, a hawk can be seen flying high overhead, looking for food, and I hope that the chickadees and other small birds will be safe, and that the hawk can find other prey for food.

Ducks on the near-frozen waters of the bay

At times, I can see swans in the distance, and one day I took a photo with my cell phone. These floating white shapes could easily be mistaken for small icebergs, especially when they are “rear up and head down” and they blend in well with the winter-white icy landscape.  Their pristine white color is perfect camouflage from predators, and I love watching them swim in slow, majestic beauty.

The wind sounds lonely in the firs, pines and cedars, and the snow turns the entire area into a Christmas card scene, especially after a fresh snowfall when the pine branches are covered with fluffy puffs of white. I have seen other visitors to the backyard bird feeder, desperately searching for food in this coldest month of winter: a rabbit who I have named “Bunnykins” who visits several times a day, and an occasional deer. The dried marsh grasses are a wonderful, lacy flower arrangement superimposed on a white background. The days are getting longer, and it feels as if all of nature is waiting for the frozen temperatures to break, and for the spring thaw to begin.

small rabbit under the trees in the snow
Bunnykins hiding under a tree

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