What You Can See on Feb. 6
Submitted by Ted Williams on Sun, 02/05/2006 - 18:07.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Fast Food for Eagles First find a hydro-electric dam, then watch the winter sky. A bald eagle wheels overhead. Suddenly tail feathers splay, wings set, legs extend, and the great bird plunges through swirling mist into the tailrace. It hits the water and rises, shaking like a spaniel and clutching half a fish in its talons. The fish was bisected not by the eagle but by the blades of the generating turbine. Such open-water fishburger provides a smorgasbord for eagles, especially in regions where ice limits access to whole fish. Birds on Snowshoes The ruffed grouse, whose feather pattern makes it appear to be robed in royal ermine, is the most widespread upland game bird in America, residing in all Canadian provinces and 38 states. It is a creature of secret, forgotten places where aspens march into pastures rank with juniper and hawthorn, where multi-trunked wolf pines stand guard over stone walls and cellar holes, where bittersweet clutches at the gaunt arms of ancient apple trees and, especially, where snow lies heavy in the winter woods. As the North Pole tilts from the sun ruffed grouse grow "snowshoes" from all four toes -- protrusions that look and feel like hemlock needles. Frequently a bird allows itself to be buried by the first major snowstorm. Later, it will dive directly into soft snow, where it will spend much of the winter, emerging occasionally to stuff its crop with buds.