Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Opinion: Swan watching takes a turn

| November 23, 2022 12:55 PM

So Sunday morning I was out swan watching. What, you’ve never swan watched before? It’s when you stand on a frozen rock with frozen shoes in freezing weather while a small flock of trumpeter swans take a nap on the edge of the Middle Fork.

It’s like watching paint dry, only with frostbite.

At any rate, I hear this rustling and these two deer come down below the high water mark and I look up and it’s this little buck and a doe.

The buck may be little, but he’s having plenty of rut success, if you get my drift. And the doe doesn’t seem to mind, either.

She even gives him a little kiss when the whole deal is done, which doesn’t take long, maybe a minute, maybe two.

(Women, insert all the jokes you want right about here).

At any rate, it sure livened up the swan watching, to say the least.

In fact, it’s the first time in a long time I’ve actually seen deer mate. In Glacier, it’s typically a buck with a big old rack getting all the action, ditto with mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

While I’ve seen plenty of big bucks pursuing does over the years, you almost never see them actually mate.


In other wildlife sightings in the past week I was watching this American dipper diving on a frigid day. It would dive off its rocky perch into the water, go under for a few seconds and then come up with what I thought was a small round bug. It didn’t make sense, because there isn’t a lot of small round bugs underwater. Most are flat, which makes it easier to hide under a rock.

I was shooting video, which over the past three years or so I’ve grown to enjoy more than shooting stills. I’m working on a couple of short, but hopefully entertaining conservation films that should come out in the next couple of years.

That might seem like a long ways off, but once you start making a film, you quickly realize why it takes so long. For one film I was in the field for about two months with hours of footage, that, once it was edited down, was just about a minute long.

But I digress.

Back to the dipper. Once I got the footage home and took a closer look I saw what the little gray bird was eating — roe — fish eggs. Couldn’t tell if it was salmon or whitefish, but it’s a food source that I would have never thought of, but now I know. Dippers typically eat aquatic insects and small fish (sometimes even biggish fish, I watched one last year eat a sculpin the size of my pinky. A dipper, for folks who aren’t familiar with the bird, is a water songbird that’s slightly smaller than a robin).

At any rate, that’s all for now.

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