Scoters, Friends, And The Ties That Bind

Black Scoters

Black Scoters

 

After a long week, I decided to spend some time alone on the shore of a local reservoir. A report had come in a couple of days before of a flock of Black Scoters and a possible Surf Scoter, and I thought I’d try my luck for some peace, quiet, and ducks.

 

Black Scoters

Black Scoters

 

Before I could even walk out of the parking area, a gorgeous Northern Mockingbird decided to post up at the top of a pine tree. I took some time to just stand and watch it, bobbing up and down and calling out cheerily to anything and anyone that would listen. After a minute or two, I raised my camera and snapped a few shots. As I was about to lower my camera, I noticed the bird was preparing to fly, and snapped one last photo as it ducked back down into the pine tree. Bombs away!

 

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 

I continued my walk down the wide path that would eventually become the wall of a dam. Breathing in deeply, I couldn’t help but smile as I admired the beauty nature had so thoughtfully put before me. The trees were on fire with color, and many birds were chirping and bouncing around their branches. I happened upon a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers and one of them was kind enough to pose for me.

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

After making my way to the shoreline, I was greeted by a welcome sight. A flock of Scoters! Both Black Scoters and Surf Scoters are sub-arctic breeders that only make their way through my neck of the woods during migration, and usually in limited number. I was thrilled to see 23 Black Scoters with a single juvenile Surf Scoter with the group!

 

Surf Scoter with Black Scoters

Surf Scoter with Black Scoters

 

This particular flock of Scoters was incredibly interesting to watch. When feeding, then entire group would dive at the same time. Not one would stay above while the others dove. They fed much of the time I observed them, gorging themselves on the plentiful Zebra Mussels that grew on the rocks all over the reservoir.

 

Black Scoters

Black Scoters

 

When not diving for food, they were quite sociable. They would often seem to be talking to one another like you or I would to each other. There were also a few laughable moments, with some of the female Black Scoters doing what appeared to be their best whale breaching impressions. It was truly a sight to see!

 

Black Scoter "Breaching"

Black Scoter “Breaching”

 

As I sat on a barren rock to collect my thoughts and take the scene in as a whole, I received a text message from a good friend of mine, telling me that he has spotted me through his binoculars from a boat launch across the reservoir. I told him to come and join me, and before I knew it we were laughing and watching in wonder together. Soon we were joined by other friends, sitting together on a barren sandbar on an unused section of beach, talking about life, wondering at the magic of nature, and completely forgetting everything that had made the past week a stressful one.

 

Mike Horn. A great friend, and better photographer!

Mike Horn. A great friend, and better photographer!

 

Which brings me to my point, and the end of this piece. Nature is full of wonder. It’s an amazing, fluid thing, where you just cannot anticipate from one moment to the next what she is going to give you. And our lives are much the same way. There are ebbs and flows, good and bad. But one thing I have always been thankful for, is the connections I make whilst in her presence. Nature has a wonderful ability to bind us to one another. A common thread to build lasting friendships. So the next time you decide to venture out into the wild, consider taking a friend, or be open to the possibility of making a new one. You never know what may come!

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