I am walking down the dock in South Harbor in Petersburg, Alaska. Crusty snow crunches underfoot and the sun is angling in from just above the horizon. It is midday, midwinter, and wisps of sea smoke indicate that the air is colder than the water. I am following a sweet murmuring sound; three soft, ascending notes sung by dozens of voices tumbling upon each other. Near the end of the float I see flocks of long tailed ducks, and they are making the musical sounds.
They paddle in and out of the long shadows cast by the boats. One duck dives and the rest follow with a watery 'swoosh' sound. A few minutes later they pop up together, closer now.
These beautiful seabirds are winter and spring visitors.
There are some other birds nearby, like these surf scoters.
This female common merganser went by and then I didn't see her again. They are usually in flocks, moving steadily along, dipping their heads down into the water to look for food. That long bill of hers is serrated to help her hang onto the fish that she catches.
But my attention keeps going back to the long-tailed ducks. The males are showier than the females, and have two long, expressive tail feathers.
They will head north to their breeding ground in spring or early summer, but for right now, in their striking winter plumage, they are a delightful addition to a Southeast Alaska waterfront.
There are many ducks and other birds that winter here in Southeast Alaska, brightening the short days.
Bye for now!
More on seabirds: Common Mergansers
All kinds of animals here: Alaskan Critters