As temperatures fall, ice has begun covering the beaver pond, as it did on my first visit of the year.
The ice blocks access to submerged plants and fish so geese and other waterfowl have moved to Big Pool lake, just over the hill. Deeper than the pond, the lake is not as quick to freeze.
A Great Blue Heron stands like a lone sentinel on the lakeshore.
High above, a young bald eagle soars, scanning the lake for vulnerable fish.
Farther west on the lake, another Great Blue Heron keeps watch over a group of Canada Geese, Common Mergansers and Hooded Mergansers gathered at the shore.
More Common Mergansers arrive in late afternoon to rest and feed before continuing their journey south. Most are females, identified by their gray bodies and rust-colored heads. The males have white bodies and green heads.
In a tree near the pond, a Tufted Titmouse feeds on the small white berries of a Poison Ivy vine. The plant is a nuisance to most people but feeds many hungry birds at a time of year when other food tends to be scarce. It’s a reminder eradicating a plant or animal, even one we find distasteful, may disrupt an entire network of species, including many we value highly.