It’s officially spring — no more putting off walking around outdoors. Where there is open water, there must be something interesting happening, so I drove down to the open stretch of water on the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling to look for Bald Eagles.
While I was looking for eagles, I spotted several flocks of male Common Mergansers doing some courting of the very few females present.
Two groups of male Common Mergansers surrounded single females, swimming with her as she moved upstream against the current. When she dove for fish, they calmly waited until she resurfaced and then regrouped around her.
How to be popular with the guys? Come to the party early. The female is the third one from the right.
I was able to sneak up on one male for a close-up shot before he saw me and swam away.
The dark green iridescent head is impossible to photograph unless the light is just right.
I finally spotted eagles flying overhead, circling in upward spirals, chittering to each other as they flew. I never fail to be impressed by the area of their 6-7.5 foot wingspan!
This one was definitely an adult, with its all white head and tail and dark underwing feathers.
This one still hasn’t lost all of its white underwing feathers, although it does have a white head and tail, so perhaps it is the other bird’s mate. It seemed larger than the other eagle — perhaps it was a female; they are 25% larger in mass than the males, weighing up to 12 lb.
I followed the eagles as they slowly circled and made their way down the river to finally land in a tree.
The eagles landed in the farthest tree down the river on the right. But unfortunately, I ran out of land and had to stop here for my photos of them. This spot is about 200 yards from where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi, just where the eagles perched.
Here’s what the eagles looked like through the binoculars — those little black blobs at the tops of the trees.
The best a cropped photo could show of the eagles — not really a very satisfying ending to my hunt.
On the hike back to the car, I saw two more eagles fly by, but there were no photo ops. The best photo of the day was at an entirely different location down river on the Mississippi where Bald Eagles are known to congregate, even during the winter.
This eagle was perched at the very top of a tree, about 50 feet from a gigantic nest. If the pair hasn’t mated and laid eggs already, they will shortly.