The “Eider Frenzy” below happened yesterday at Blue Hill Falls. When a danger signal is given, the Eiders swarm out to deeper water, churning the Bay into a frothy mist as they go. Perhaps it’s a way of making it difficult for eagles or hunters to get a bead on an individual bird.

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Hundreds of Common Eiders, our largest native ducks, spend their winters in a closely-huddled “paddling” in Blue Hill Bay near the Falls. The swift current there prevents freezing and the shallow water allows easy access to tasty mollusks and crustaceans.

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When not panicked, the attractiveness of these big-nosed birds is apparent: the males flash patches of black and white and the females ripple with rings of bronze:

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They’re strong flyers and can attain speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

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They’re not so pretty when they eat, though. They gulp and gorge on mussels and clams, swallowing them whole. With large crabs, they sometimes remove the claws and legs before swallowing the live body whole. Don’t invite one to dinner. (Blue Hill, Maine) [Some images taken prior to yesterday.]

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