[Tweeters] Mallard sacrifice at Bob Heirman

Rob Sandelin nwnature1 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 25 13:02:46 PDT 2013

Yesterday morning I headed out to my "secret spot" at Bob Heirman. It's off
the beaten trail and along a waterway full of beaver activity. Lots of bird
song including Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped and orange-crowned warblers.
As I sat in the morning sun a river otter came from downstream. It was
working the far shoreline, nosing about the edges, climbing in and out of
the water in search of... From upstream a pair of mallards flew down and
landed near the otter and quacked their heads off. It was obvious they were
trying to distract the otter, and the otter apparently knew this as it
became very alert and stood up facing upstream to try and get a better look
at where the ducks had come from.

Perhaps drawn by the duck calls, a bald eagle flew in, made a pass and
circled back and landed in a cottonwood overlooking the activity in the
water. The otter, which had been onshore, immediately ditched into the
water, and did not come up until it was almost out of sight downstream. The
ducks became quiet and the male began acting oddly, moving upstream into the
middle of the channel with very jerky and twitchy sorts of movements, even
flicking its wings several times. This drew the attention of the Eagle
perched above and meanwhile the female slowly moved to the opposite shore
and eventually under the shelter of a fallen Alder tangle at the shores
edge. The eagle made its move, the male mallard tried to dive but seemed to
be barely able to get under the water, the eagle hovered and dove again as
the mallard resurfaced. On the third dive, the eagle timed its dive but
somehow the mallard reversed course then sprang out of the water flying in
the opposite direction. The eagle doubled back and hit the duck in the air,
which fell into a brushy tangle. The eagle circled back twice then tried to
perch on a willow but it didn't hold its weight so it flew another circle
and landed in a alder a bit farther away.

Then all was quiet. Even the Robins and Song Sparrows keep a silent vigil.
Eventually the eagle flew to a different tree, then flew towards the river.
The female duck, which I could see very clearly did not come out of her
cover until 42 minutes had passed. She very slowly and with lots of head
movement, motored upstream back to what I presume was her nest. Given all
that she had been through I decided not to confirm the nest but quietly
snuck away. I poked around where the male mallard had fallen but found no
sign so I left hoping the pair would be reunited.

Rob Sandelin

Naturalist, Writer, Teacher

Snohomish County

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