Sunday, February 21, 2010

ANOTHER EAGLE

Sunday a week ago, just after dawn, I was at my desk and had just begun writing a post for this blog, when I glanced out the window toward the river and woods on the island across from the cottage. Suddenly a large bird flashed into view. Whatever it was lit momentarily in a sycamore which leans over the water. The bird hopped down to a lower limb, flapped over to another tree a dozen yards downstream, paused there only a second or two, tried another branch, then flew to a third tree which didn't seem to suite it all that much, either. The bird shifted about and never appeared to get settled—maybe because the limbs were all top-layered with a thick coating of snow, or possibly because the low-angled light from the barely risen sun required the perfect sight angle to see into the pools below.
Even glimpsed between the trees while on the move, I saw the bird was large, dark, and massive in build—too massive to be a heron, though the wingspan was plenty wide enough. But I see great blue herons almost every minute of every day; there are almost always three our four scattered at favorite fishing sites within sight of the cottage, and they're forever flapping up or down stream, rattling, chasing one another, trying their luck here and there. While herons do rest in the nearby trees quite often—sitting on limbs close to the water or branches 80 feet high, in the very tops of some of the biggest sycamores—I see them regularly enough to know that whatever the bird was, it wasn't a heron.
My first thought was turkey vulture. As most of you who read these posts know, there's a seasonal buzzard roost directly across from the cottage, used nightly by well over 100 birds. When they're in residence, I see turkey vultures daily. But the vultures don't typically show up hereabout until mid-March—another month away. Moreover, the bird in question wasn't flying or acting like a vulture, either; besides looked plainly bigger.
When I scrambled to the front room for a better view and managed to get the binoculars on it, what I'd suspected, but hadn't quite dared hope or believe, came into clear, sharp focus…eagle! Another eagle! And on Valentine's Day, to boot! What a delightful, awesome, unexpected gift!
I was so excited I almost hustled into the bedroom and shook Myladylove, still-blissfully-sleeping, awake. She'd be as excited about another eagle along the river as I was, even though she lived on an Alaskan island for several years and saw eagles by the dozens regularly. But she'd also been really tired the evening before, and of course we had plans for the day ahead; I wanted her to be rested.
While I was considering, the eagle flapped on downstream and disappeared around the bend. I retrieved my cup of coffee from the writing room, along with several bird guides, and sat at the dinning room table. Just in case the bird returned, the table has the best view of the entire stretch of stream visible below the cottage.
The eagle had been dark—almost black—though with a few irregular lighter feathers scattered about. The beak had been dark, too. I quickly decided it had to be an immature bald eagle, though given the light mottling, probably a bird in the two-year-old range. Certainly not the white-headed, mature bird I'd gotten so excited over [see here] a month ago, which was the first bald eagle I've ever seen along the river and one of the few bald eagles I've seen in my lifetime. Not that this second bald eagle was any less exciting.
Fifteen minutes after disappearing around the downstream bend, the eagle suddenly reappeared. Again it did a series of stop-and-go pauses in the trees alongside the river, steadily working in my direction. I had my camera at the ready. The huge bird found a limb almost a hundred yards below the cottage and stopped—except this time it stayed…and stayed…and stayed. For the next hour I watched it through the binoculars. Myladylove got up on her own. I told her about the eagle and almost got bowled over as she snatched the binoculars and demanded I point out the distant bird. I finally got her lined up. "Ooooooh," she exclaimed. "What's the matter with you—how come you didn't wake me up!"
The eagle stayed on that limb another hour. Unfortunately, it was way too far away for much of a shot with even my longest lens, though I tried. There was no question about sneaking closer. When the bird finally did move, it flew through the timber along the river. No shot there, either. In mid-afternoon, it reappeared—sailing quickly into view, and just as quickly swooping to the river's surface where it snatched a fish from a shallow pool and hurriedly flapped into the woods of the island across from the cottage. Both Myladylove and I lost sight of the bird in the maze of timber. That whole sequence—reappearance, feeding swoop and catch, and disappearance among the trees—might have taken 15 seconds. No photo-op whatsoever.
I've waited a week to mention any of this because I hoped I could come up with a better photo. However, the young eagle has disappeared, though I've searched a bit upstream and down, watching as best I could from various vantage points along several miles of river. So, you'll have to make do with this admittedly poor photo and my tale. Still, good photo or not, I thought our Valentine's Day bald eagle was just too special an event not to share.

22 comments:

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

I`m enjoying reading of your excitement at the viewing as much seeing the photograph. Wonderful to be graced with such a `miraculous` visitation!

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

A special Valentine's day gift indeed. :-) thanks for sharing such a natural gift.

Love Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

It was wonderful! Quite the Valentine's Day blessing! What a neat thing.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

You know, we'd decided that first eagle was a sort of natural wedding gift, coming as it did soon after getting married; and now this one, on Valentine's Day…it's like the river is making everything so special.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Even hearing about your eagle, with your lovely use of language, makes it exciting - the photos just add to that excitement. A friend of mine was sitting by our local river, daydreaming, when she heard a splash, looked up and saw a young osprey. You never know when you are going to see something exciting in the bird world.

giggles said...

Oh COOL! Happy belated VD!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

That's one of the neatest things about nature in general—you just never know what you're going to witness. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It was probably too long, but I just couldn't help myself.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Hey, thank you very much. You'll feel the same way when you have that first pileated in your yard.

(You're gonna have to watch those acronyms—that one gave me a real start for a moment. :-)

Wanda said...

Enjoyed your post! I've never seen an eagle myself and you most likely have seen the video of an eagle attacking a deer, but if not...it's at Jim McCormac's blog.

http://jimmccormac.blogspot.com/2010/02/golden-eagle-attacks-deer.html

Robin said...

This makes me smile.... Thanks!

Bernie said...

I love Bald Eagles and I so enjoyed you and your lady's excitement over having one visit the river......your description was pricless. I am now hoping he comes back soon so you both will get a better look, more time to view him and more photo's. I am enjoying your enjoyment of Valentine's Day. May you have more days just like this one my friend......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Except for high fly-overs and a few brief passings while zooming along a highway, last Sunday's eagle sighting, and the one just after the first of the year, are my sole eagle encounters here in Ohio—and I've probably spent as many or more hours afield—often along streams—as anyone.

I'm encouraged by "my" two bald eagles that the species may be increasing its presence in the state, or at least in this corner. These winter birds are, of course, apt to be travelers. But I hope others will appear as winter turns to spring.

I think, sooner or later, you will see an eagle. As these two sightings have proven to me, sometimes dreams do come true.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

Glad you liked it. Seeing that eagle certainly made my day.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Thank you for your nice words. I'm happy to have been able to watch that eagle for so long, even though it never moved close enough for a good photo. Maybe next time. But the real magic and the pleasure was in just having it here, perched among the sycamores along the river—a bald eagle in our midst.

Tramp said...

Keep that camera handy!
But sometimes your words paint a thousand pictures. Also I appreciate the dilemma of whether to wake the good lady.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

I do what I can with words, but sometimes you just need that one image…or at least I want both. So I do carry the camera, pay attention, and hope.

Yup, to awake or not to awake, that was the question…with a lot riding on the decision. :-D

giggles said...

;-)


Two white breasted nuthatches this am! Never seen two at the same time here! And I will not hold out hope for seeing a pileated here in eastern PA. I'll just know to pay very close attention every time I visit the folks in mid Ohio!!!!! (I will pay attention here to the screech owl, though.)

Carolyn H said...

Griz: Nice photo of a 1st year Bald Eagle. Hawkwatchers often call them "white bellies." They hold that plumage until they are about 1.5 years old. this one was almost certainly a spring 2009 hatch.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

First off, don't give up on that pileated! It's possible, and a lot more probable than TWO EAGLES!

Okay, two nuthatches rate pretty good, though I have lots of nuthatches, and two at the same feeder or close to one another on the same tree occurs. A first for me recently was two Carolina wrens in the feeder at the same time (rare, but not unprecedented) and a minute later, THREE wrens at once, which I've never heard about or witnessed! Usually CWs are territorial to the point of fighting if they see another of their kind about.

Screech owls are worth points, too, BTW.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Hey, sounds like good info from someone who knows a whole lot more about bald eagles than me. I knew it was a young bird, but going by what little I was able to read, guessed more like two years of age. But it was as you said, fairly mottled on the belly; the back had only a few lighter marks, and was otherwise dark. The bill was dark, though when the light was right, it seemed like I could see some yellow.

If it was a less-than year-old bird, I wonder if it could have been one of the eaglets hatched on the nest a dozen miles from here. Anyway, glad to know a bit more in case there is a next time.

Jayne said...

WOW! What a wonderful gift on Valentine's Day!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Yes, it was. But a far, far better gift was to read on your latest post that that little boy who basically drowned is not only living, making progress and on the road to recovery. What a wonderful, God-given miracle!