This is the story of the excitement on one day during the higher tides of February.
As the night of the full moon draws nearer the days of higher tides also draw nearer. These days are not quite like those when we experienced the king tides, but the tides levels were just as high. At the north end of the Peninsula the tides of the full moon days ranged from 11 to just over 12 feet. Nevertheless, the raptors know the tides are high and as a result they are more likely to have a larger abundance of choices on their luncheon and dinner menus.
A bald eagle with a gleaming white head and tail was the first raptor to arrive on the wetland. It positioned itself high in a Sitka spruce at first light. Two hours later it was still there waiting for the official time of the high tide. It must have been thinking that a snack or breakfast couldn’t be far away now.
Seven mallards flew in as the tide crept over the wetland and deepened enough for them to feed. I couldn’t help but wonder whether they would be breakfast for the bald eagle that had been waiting so patiently for the waterfowl or for the two other bald eagles that had just begun flying in tandem over the wetland. They were also in search of a meal, I’m pretty sure! The mallards could be easy pickings for the eagles.
During these high tides the wetlands along the edge of Willapa Bay tend to fill up with much more water than usual. It is a good thing for the waterfowl because the nutrients in the wetlands rise to the surface or just below. Waterfowl love it so they feed away. Perhaps they concentrate so hard on getting a tasty meal that they forget to pay attention to the fact that there may be predators lurking in the trees nearby.
Soon, a great blue heron flew in and trotted along the edges of the water-logged wetland. It stopped periodically. It then poised for the hunt with its head and large dagger-like bill down ready to strike at any tasty morsel that appeared.
During the hours of high tide, the red-tailed hawk soared overhead and then landed to survey the area for an unsuspecting rodent, rabbit, bird or reptile that it could snatch in its talons. What a fine meal one of the mallards would make. The northern harrier zipped on by too. It was looking for voles, its favorite, and mice. The peregrine falcon, not to be left out, sat high on a snag watching for opportunities as well.
As the tide began to ebb a small flock of shorebirds flew in adding variety to the menu. The mallards continued to feed as long as the water was deep enough for them to swim and move around well. As the ebb occurred they moved on. No one succumbed to the raptors that were on the watch. It was a good day for the waterfowl and shorebirds, but perhaps not so great for the raptors! They may have gone home hungry! Do you think?
”Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Madeline Kalbach and Susan Stauffer, is available from the Chinook Observer, Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.