[Tweeters] Otters, eagles and mergansers

Rob Sandelin floriferous at msn.com
Wed Feb 23 08:20:39 PST 2005

Did a nice hike around Lord Hill Park between Snohomish and Monroe. It was
another clear and sunny day and I spent a good amount of time at Temple
Pond. I settled in to a sunny, comfortable viewing place and was quickly
rewarded by 5 Hooded mergansers putting on a show. When they first swam by
they were in two sets of male female pairs. A lone female approached the
four and she really stirred things up. The males began puffing themselves
up, heads raised. Then one fully opened its crest and tipped his head and
began calling. This incited both females to swim at the third intruding
female. The girls did a bit of splashing and they all dove a couple of
times. At one point, one of the females was quite aggresively swimming at
another, causing it to dive. The dance came to a sudden halt at the call of
an unseen Eagle. All 5 ducks immediately starting acting very nervous, they
were moving their heads all around and at first all sort of swam in
different direction. One pair and the lone female swam quickly into the
reeds, the other pair took to opposite strategy and went into the open water
of the lake.

Everything settled down again and it was quiet, warm and comforatble so I
started to get drowsy. Then a crunching sound cleared the cobwebs and right
in front of me, a river otter was sitting on a log, crunching away on a
fish. It ate the fish tail first, and I never had the opportunity before to
hear such sounds. Table manners are not the strong suite for otters. Lots of
snorts, crunches and slobbery slurping noises. The otter finished the snack
then after swimming a bit pulled out onto a grassy spot and after rubbing
around sprawled out in the sun, looking for all the world like a cat, laying
on its back. The otter stayed there a long time.

I too, was more or less sprawled out in the sun and again the day and place
was lulling me to sleep when the eagle showed up, soaring overhead. I
watched the eagle and figured out that it was soaring more or less over the
otter, in big circles. The eagle was very high but slowly descending with
each spiral around. It was all very slow and lazy. Then the eagle dipped its
wing and made a sharper move to descend, but still very high in the sky.
There was a splash and the otter was no longer on the log. My friend Jason
who was perched in a tree to watch the otter said the otter jumped off the
log and made a long dive and swam underwater all the way to the other end of
the lake. The eagle dropped down to the level of the tree tops, then made a
graceful landing on a cottonwood. After looking at the eagle for awhile I
went back and scanned the lake. No mergansers, no otters. They obviously
were acknowleging the great black and white hunter by respectfully hiding.

Rob Sandelin
Naturalist, Writer, Teacher
Snohomish County, WA

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