Marshy Creek Freezes Over While Waterfowl Try To Survive

This past week brought back the extreme frigid temps to our area, this time they said was the coldest yet for our winter.  They are reporting the upper Chesapeake Bay above the Bay Bridge is almost frozen over.  The big tankers and cargo ships are struggling to make it through the ice.

I started a series of shots to watch the waters of Marshy Creek in case it froze over.  Here you go….

It was last Sunday and days prior, we experienced extreme low tides.  In the following photo, you can see a huge mud flat along the riprap to the left of our Osprey nest platform.  I don’t recall ever seeing this much mud before.  It brought on some activity that I’ll post about later.  Marshy Creek was mostly open waters, with some freezing along the edges.

Sunday, 2/15/15

Sunday Afternoon, 2/15/15

The next morning, here’s the same shot showing how much had frozen overnight during our single digits with wind chills in the minuses.  Only an open water pool remained and Ruddy Ducks & Mallards had taken refuge around it, sleeping and feeding.

Monday Morning 2/16/15

Monday Morning 2/16/15

Monday night we were to get a squall of snow, maybe 5-8″ at most, so I packed up paperwork at the office with plans to hunker down at home Tuesday.  When I got home late afternoon, there were few each of Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Canada Geese, Canvasbacks, Gulls, and a pair of Gadwells feeding and sleeping.  Awesome!  Now my photo series included birds.  🙂

Monday Afternoon 2/16/15

Monday Afternoon 2/16/15

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Canada Geese, Ruddy Ducks, and mallards stayed to the right in the water

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Canvasbacks stayed to the left, feeding under the ice

By early evening, the quantity of Canvasbacks had increased.  I was glad they were back and hoped they’d stay overnight for some morning watching….ummmm, while I did my office paperwork.

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The next morning, WOW!  The size of the water pool had decreased substantially; and it was slam-full of Canvasbacks and Ruddy Ducks, while a few Canada Geese slept on the ice.  I quickly bundled up and ran out to the balcony to take a series of photos.

Tuesday Morning 2/17/15

Tuesday Morning 2/17/15

In the seconds it takes to take to snap away, I saw something begin to occur in my viewfinder.  Snapped a few more.


Canvasbacks tightening up.


Those in the back were flying forward.


Canvasbacks real tight together now, necks straight up in the air.

With the violent splashing and hearing the Canada Geese on the ice squawking, I looked away from my viewfinder to see what WAS going on.  And in that instant, an American Bald Eagle was up in the air with an unfortunate Ruddy Duck.  I quickly tried to focus on the Eagle as he swooped away and headed to the Osprey nest platform across Marshy Creek to consume breakfast.


American Bald Eagle and an unfortunate ruddy duck.


No matter how many times I’ve seen this, I still don’t know whether I felt fortunate to see the circle of life happening or be sad for the little duck.

Life went back to normal in the pool, as the ducks went back to feeding.  The sun even popped out.



A mixture of canvasbacks and ruddy ducks (minus one)


About an hour after the Eagle incident, I checked out my window and the Canvasbacks were gone.  Only Ruddy Ducks remained.  Wished I had seen them take off and shot a series!


Ruddy Ducks

Their pool of water got smaller by the hour.  Next photo is 5 hours later.


Ruddy Ducks

And why those Ruddy Ducks stayed all afternoon, I can’t figure out.  They were literally ‘sittin’ ducks’.  Two more times I sighted Eagles with one of them.


Immature American Bald Eagle with his Ruddy Duck


Another angle….

I’m hoping the decrease in the size of the water pool helped send the Ruddy Ducks on their way, at least so they didn’t become another snack.

Wednesday 2/18/15

Wednesday Morning 2/18/15 – A little fog present and only a couple Ruddy Ducks

THursday Morning 2/19/15

Thursday Morning 2/19/15 – No open pool of water

Today, Saturday 2/21/15

Today, Saturday 2/21/15 – everything is more solid now

Oh, and in case you ask, no I did not get my office work done that day.  Something about birds distracted me…..  🙂

12 thoughts on “Marshy Creek Freezes Over While Waterfowl Try To Survive

  1. Your photos illustrate your story extremely well! It’s a very hard winter for all wildlife over most of the eastern part of the US. I also have mixed feeling when I see a raptor take a duck, but it’s nature’s way. Last winter, a fairly substantial number of ducks that were wintering around Muskegon died of starvation, since there was so little open water for them to feed in. I’m sure that it will be the same this winter. So, then the question is, is it better if the eagles catch a few of the starving ducks to shorten what would otherwise be a long, slow death and keep the eagle population healthy? The eagles aren’t able to fish when there’s no open water either.

  2. It’s a sad documentary of a natural event. The pattern changes of the Arctic winds apparently leaves birds kind of erratic about their migrations. I feel sorry for the tragic conclusion. This post illustrate a profound drama of survival or demise situation. It’s Nature, alas! Thank you Donna!

  3. Very striking pictures of the crowded water. I am sorry that you didn’t get your work done….but not very. The birds were more interesting I am sure.

  4. Hey, I figure the paperwork will still be there when your fingers are too frozen to press the shutter release any more. Really fascinating photos. Hope you had on your camo and fur lined crocs. 😉

    • You got that right, Kathy. It was crazy, bundling up to go outside, then back inside & unbundle, then bundle/back outside. I was slipping boots on/off each time. It was a hoot…..and really had my hot flashes going with too much change in temps to often! LOL But I still had fun, which is all that matters. 🙂

  5. Hi Donna, What a wonderful series. Sad for the poor little Ruddy but like the Coots, Eagles love ’em. Your photographs of the flocks are especially outstanding. Love those Cans. Have a super good Friday tomorrow!

  6. Thanks so much! With all the ice, it is great that the ducks are finding open waters around us. Even better if I get a chance to photograph them! Have a wonderful Friday and weekend also! Happy Shooting! 🙂

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