Having just returned from a long stint at dusky camp doing nest island monitoring, we were allotted a few days of recovery before the next project rolled around. This break plus the long 4th of July weekend was the perfect opportunity to make a surprise trip to California to see my family. July 2nd is my sister’s 30th birthday and her fiancĂ© decided to throw her a surprise party. He even flew the parents out from Michigan to Los Angeles! This seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit and make it a double surprise. As I am writing this blog the gathering has not happened yet, but by the time you read this I will have already seen everyone, shed some happy tears, and probably already told them about my favorite day out in the field thus far…

It was a cloudy, rainy, and extremely windy morning when we reached a certain pond with a dusky nest island supposedly floating in it. The wind subsided and the clouds parted, letting a little sun through and creating a crisp view of this pristine pond. My field partner that day, Cody Davis, and I paddled across a sea of equisetum (horsetail) in the pond and found no island there. As we exited the equisetum into the more open water, a Trumpeter Swan sounded her alarm, and I spotted two cygnets scrambling into the tall grass. As we rounded a corner heading towards the cygnets, the swan became more frantic and then took flight. He or she circled the pond, honking in the hope of distracting us away from the hiding cygnets. In this moment, we spotted a duck with her brood of eight ducklings. She performed the same distraction display as the swan, and the ducklings scurried onto shore hidden by the grasses and shrubs. As we approached them we saw that the ducklings had already quickly made their way out of the brush and back to their mother. Just then, a massive Bald Eagle swooped in, bathed in sunlight, and it dive-bombed the ducklings. Luckily, they dove underwater at just the right time and the eagle missed. As the eagle flew back up, we heard two Parasitic Jaegers coming out of left field. One of the pair went straight for the eagle, and just slammed into it. I can only assume that the eagle posed some sort of threat to their chicks. The jaeger continued to seriously slam into the eagle as they exited the scene. Mama swan, who had been circling with her alarm call the entire time this was happening, gracefully settled back down into the water, and the family of ducks seemed to have recovered from the ordeal and continued on. And I stood there, dumbstruck. Nature theater, you win.




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