While checking the status of frazil ice from standing on the North Creek bridge a while ago, I was startled to see a hooded merganser in the open water below. (See the picture by Larry Master, www.masterimages.org. He's a master birder, too.)

Larry says some hoodeds winter in the Adirondacks on rivers that stay free of ice. I often see common mergansers here, but this hooded was a first for me in winter. I do see them every spring in the Ski Bowl Park pond when they are migrating, and on secluded ponds, the female raising the broods alone. And once I saw some males on Cole's Pond on our River Road snapping their magnificent crests up and down, displaying to whoever cared. I don't know if this display is a challenge to other guys ("My crest is faster, bigger and noisier than yours!") or intended to impress the ladies. Within days of my seeing the merganser on the Hudson there were five miles of ice filling the river from North Creek to North River and beyond. He must have headed downriver in a big hurry.

The other bird of note this winter has been the common redpoll, up to about fifty birds feeding at once on our carport roof/bird feeder. When the seeds are spread out enough, the constantly moving, roiling flock chatters happily while they peel off the thin membrane covering the seeds and eat the heart. They are very "flighty", taking off in a mass at the slightest disturbance (such as a squirrel), but they come back quickly if the Feeder Guardian scares the squirrel away. (I hope the people walking by do not think he is yelling at them.) It's wonderful to have these charming, red polled Canadian visitors for a change. I hope you have them too.

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