waterbirds in the tidal marsh

1.30.23 ~ Waterford Beach Park

It was a rare day with calm winds so, even though it was cloudy, we went to walk along a tidal marsh by the sea. The first thing to catch my eye was a gorgeous little oak tree, still hanging on to its leaves. Then I spotted a pair of hooded mergansers in the distance, so these pictures are heavily cropped. The female kept diving for food but the male seemed to be resting.

female hooded merganser
male hooded merganser

A tidal creek runs through the marsh.

trees reflected in the water in the tidal creek

A solitary herring gull was floating around aimlessly, slowly drifting in my direction. Wondering where all the others have gone. They always seem willing to pose for me.

Somewhat disappointed by the lack of bird sightings we were on our way back to the car when I spotted a great blue heron on the other side of the marsh. Just as I got into a good position to photograph him, he took off! Frustrating… But, lucky for me he was just headed for a spot even closer to me and the other birds. Yay!

great blue heron, hunting
noticing something in the water
getting ready to strike
making a stab at it
oh well, not this time

I’ve been getting pictures of great blue herons for a few years now and this was the first time I’ve had one facing the camera. I had never noticed that pretty pattern running down the front of its neck before! It’s not even illustrated in my field guide. So I’m very excited about my new “discovery.”

45 thoughts on “waterbirds in the tidal marsh”

  1. Oh Barbara I loved this post. Your photos are spectacular. I wish I had been there with you. I seldom see the wildlife in Arkansas like I did 2 years ago. After that huge snow storm in early 2021 the wildlife decreased in our area. Hope we recover from that some day soon.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Peggy! I have a feeling it would be wonderful taking a nice long walk in the woods with you. It is worrying to think about the effect these extreme weather events are having on our wildlife. I, too, hope they find ways to cope and continue living.

      1. Here’s to you and me – 2 nature lovers. I do love walks in the woods. I have not been able to get to a beach for years, but I do love walking on the beach too. Have a good day Barbara.

        1. Cheers, Peggy! Lucky for us that we can find the soothing beauty of nature near to us whether we live by the sea or far inland. Wishing you a good day, too, my friend.

  2. Nice captures, Barbara. Herons are beautifully plumed, esp. in breeding season, but even in winter a striking vision. Liked the canal shot, too. Stay safe and warm today!

    1. Thank you, Eliza! It was -8°F when I woke up before dawn on Saturday morning. I’m glad we don’t live on the top of Mount Washington, though, at -47°F!! Hope you came through the arctic snap without any problems.

          1. I’ve been reading that it might have broken a national wind chill record, too, set in Alaska at -105°F. Incredible!

    1. Thank you, Janet. Nothing too colorful to see this dreary time of year, but the wintertime has a stark beauty all its own. Thanks for your visit!

  3. What a great walk for Winter you had Barbara. I have never seen a Hooded Merganser up close or afar. That is a beautiful profile they have. I like your Gull and it is pretty in real life just as in the reflection. That’s a real close-up of the Heron – lucky you for that and watching you closely gave you the perfect opportunity to get some shots in. They really are amazing with their colors. Their gray color plumage from afar does not do them justice in the least, but up close as you have it, it is a myriad of colors.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I’m pretty sure this was only the second time we’ve seen hooded mergansers so it was a treat. 🙂 I’m wondering if gulls are in some sort of a decline since I don’t see as many as I used to see. Or maybe they’ve moved to a more accommodating environment. Seeing this one all by itself felt strange somehow. I was delighted when that heron landed closer to us instead of flying away, another treat!

      1. It’s great when you the photo ops just keep on coming – you had a wonderful day Barbara. It could be the weather is confusing the gulls, even though they don’t migrate. I have not been down to the River at Dingell Park yet this Winter. The big steel plant closed so no more steam melting the ice to allow the eagles to fish from the ice floes. I wonder if many of the migrating birds didn’t fly south because the Fall was so mild and they stayed, then we have had the two bitter cold spells. You’re right – it is rare seeing a solitary seagull, as they’re usually in groups. Hope it was okay.

        1. He seemed fine, just all alone. It was such a peaceful scene. It’s kind of creepy how mild the weather has been this winter.

          1. OK, just alone – like that seagull I took a photo of it screeching. I saw it on the ground, but walking along, but never flying. I saw it in a couple of different places, nowhere near the other place and I wondered if it strayed from the others as it was out in a field both times. My favorite meteorologist just retired 01/31 after 40 years in the business, but will still be tweeting out weather reports as to severe weather and he said to enjoy today (he was grilling on the patio in a short-sleeved tee-shirt) and said Winter has not gone away for good yet.

          2. There’s a festival at Mystic Seaport this weekend called Wintertide. Saturday is the only day this week they’re predicting seasonably cold temperatures so I hope we’ve recovered from our colds enough to attend. They’re supposed to have reindeer, but it won’t feel the same without snow. It’s like spring too soon out there. Sigh… I actually hope your meteorologist’s prediction comes true.

          3. Our weather is like a roller coaster and I’m grateful that the 45-50 mph winds have finally subsided. Tomorrow may be good for a walk but then freezing rain the rest of the day and into Friday – not great news and back to the 20s again for a day or too. I hope you get to go even if the reindeer will look out of place. We have an Audubon event in a tour bus which goes all along the Detroit River from Dingell Park to Humbug Marsh (Wildlife Refug) this Saturday. They stop at five parks. I did a similar “tour” in the Summertime. Their event is called “Downriver Birding Blitz” and is in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count. It sounds like fun … you actually have to show your Covid vaccination card as you’re riding together on a bus. Too soon for me – we still have Covid and Flu here, so maybe next year. Sigh.

          4. I wouldn’t want to go on a bus tour just yet, either, masks or no masks. Keeping my fingers crossed for Saturday… It was a rude awakening coming down with a cold but I’m glad we tested negative for covid.

          5. The Birding Blitz sounded fun and I have been following a bus tour company which is in a nearby city and I get e-mails from them once a month on all their offerings. I have seen a few trips I’d be interested on, mostly day trips like to a lavender farm, to the Dow Gardens Butterfly Habitat Event “Butterflies in Bloom” and the vintage town of Holly where they have an annual Dickens “A Christmas Carol” festival where the whole town dresses up in period costumes and there are other overnight trips. I can’t bring myself to do it and to be honest, when I was younger I went with tour groups and never thought twice about going on a ship tender to go ashore, climbing onto a bus, train or puddle-jumper airplane. But now, as I am older, wiser to all the risks of accidents,not to mention Covid or norovirus, plus with less years left on Earth, I likely will never even undertake a day tour. That’s fine as I just look forward to retirement and unlimited free time, whenever that will be.

          6. I’m with you there. The idea of touring with a group isn’t very appealing. You can’t really go where you want, when you want to. I’d much rather explore at my own pace, skipping some things and staying longer at other places. The best part of being retired is getting to go places during the week when there aren’t many crowds. 🙂

          7. When I took the Scandinavian and USSR trip, it was thru Maupintour and pretty jam packed but that was also 40 years ago too. I had more energy then. 🙂 I see that riverboat cruise they advertised on PBS during “All Creatures Great & Small” and that would appeal to me – leisurely day trips to see sights or go into town, evenings to relax. But I’d worry about going on a cruise now due to norovirus concerns. It was easier traveling years ago – none of the worries we have today.

          8. That riverboat cruise sounds appealing, too. No packing and unpacking while traveling between hotels and cities. We took a day cruise on the Rhine while visiting Tim’s brother and his wife in Germany. It was beautiful. We climbed up the riverbank to Rheinstein Castle and on another stop took a cable car ride over the vineyards of Rudesheim. I was sad to read that last summer there was a drought that left the water level of parts of the Rhine too low for ships to pass. I’m glad we had a chance to go when things weren’t so bad.

          9. Viking Cruises is a big sponsor of PBS and the low flat riverboat cruising does appeal to me immensely. When I last went on a cruise (Panama Canal 1982), the cruise ships were big, but not these multi-level ships they have nowadays, ships that have pools on every level and look like floating hotels. I also went on a Rhine River day cruise and did a post about the trip. Like you, I am glad we traveled before climate change and Coronavirus reared their ugly heads.

          10. Yes, I’d never heard of that before when I was on a cruise and the thought of being cooped up together with norovirus or Covid running rampant worries me just thinking of it. Did I mention my friend Ann Marie got Covid while recuperating from her 02/08/23 hip replacement? A friend came to “help” out and the friend had Covid and Ann Marie got it. Her husband did not get it fortunately, but he had Covid back in 2020 when hospitalized for complications from his COPD.

          11. Oh dear, it’s still out there. I think we’ll all get it sooner or later. I hope Ann Marie wasn’t too bad off with it, assuming she was vaccinated.

          12. The medical authorities say that everyone will eventually get it – that worries you, Tim and me, who are diligent about mask wearing and are very careful. Ann Marie was fully vaccinated and her husband was fully vaccinated, but he got Covid back in the Spring of 2020 before we had vaccinations, when he was in the hospital for water on the lung from his chronic COPD. Ann Marie didn’t get Covid then as hospitals didn’t permit visitors back in those early pandemic days. So his Covid was done by the time he came home. The irony of her getting Covid was the surgeon scheduled her surgery in a small hospital, 25 miles from her home and had her in/out the same day just to avoid getting Covid or the flu due to a longer hospital stay (the old adage of “you go to the hospital and come home worse”). She sent me an e-mail and said “it wasn’t bad enough I was on post-op medication from the surgery, but now have even more medications to take.”

          13. Barbara, here is my post about my trip to Germany with my father which I wrote as Woodstock commemorated its 50th anniversary. I was in Germany with my father at that time. Don’t feel you have to read this very long post, just look at the photos. I was 13 and my favorite was petting the bulls in an Alpine valley. I don’t know if this picture was on a boardwalk along the Rhine River or on the boat, but I’m thinking the former.

          14. Those look like very peaceful and content bulls! I wonder if they are (castrated) steers? All the bulls I’ve ever seen at farms were snorting and very aggressive. I was terrified of them even though they were behind fences. How amazing that you could go into the field and pet them! The pictures taken along the Rhine look much like it did when we went there. It’s a beautiful country. We flew over the Alps when we took a side trip to Venice but we never got to go see them on land. The view from the plane really impressed me, though. Germany is such a beautiful country.

          15. That’s a good question Barbara and maybe this is why they were so peaceful and content. I kind of thought it was because it was a warm, sunny day and they were basking in the sun. Yes, Germany was a very picturesque country. The older people in the pics were my father’s aunt and uncle, both gone now for decades. He was retired, but had been a chef on a train and would be on the train days at a time. He loved to cook and we stayed with them while in Frankfurt. They had one of those gardens that people buy plots and put a little house on it. He was a good cook. We traveled with them to Austria, also pretty.

            I would have loved to go to Venice. I just read online that the canal water was so low in Venice that doctors and emergency personnel were having issues getting to hospitals or picking up and doing emergency treatment on people because it takes them longer to go from Point A to Point B.

          16. Beautiful memories… Poor Venice. Most of the time they’re in trouble because of flooding from the rising sea level. It flooded a little when we were there.

          17. Do you remember hearing or reading that the canals were so clean in Venice during the early part of the pandemic when the gondolas were not being used? I don’t see how that matters since they move by the gondolier paddling, right? But they said the water was very pristine.

          18. It’s not the gondolas causing the pollution, it’s the vaporetti (canal boats) that are to blame. They are like city buses on the water. The first day of our visit there was a transportation strike so we had to walk everywhere. Our feet and legs were killing us by the end of the day. The next day we took the vaporetti to get around. We only took one gondola ride because it was terribly expensive. Just so we could say we did it.

          19. Well I learned something Barbara – I just assumed people walked everywhere or took gondolas. I should have known there had to be another way of getting around. Interesting. Also interesting that everyone who goes to Venice wants to go on a gondola ride and they are so expensive, but it is something you want to say you did. I would have done so too, just because it is synonymous with Venice.

            I took a coworker to Toronto with me in 1976 for a week’s vacation. We stayed with my grandmother. We took a Greyhound bus over as you really don’t need a car in Toronto to get around – you pay one time and get transfers to go to the streetcar/bus and/or subway then do the same to come home again. My grandmother lived just about six or eight houses from the streetcar stop. The day we got there the TTC (Toronto Transit Authority) went on strike. Leslie and I walked every day to the Downtown Toronto area where all the sights were, the Exhibition for two concerts … luckily, just a six-mile round trip, but all the walking around we also did while there added lots more steps/miles.

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