Wednesday, February 25, 2009

emerging from winter

(I am going to go ahead and publish this as is and will edit it a bit later. I figure that you can forgive me because at least I am getting this on the blog.)

I know that technically it will still be winter for a long time, but today I got another small taste of spring. I even wore sandals to church tonight. I don't know if you remember this post about my daughter and socks, but I know that she got this allergy from me. My feet were thrilled to be out of socks.

Anyhow, I have tons of things that I need to tell you all, but I am going to go back two weeks for this one when I drug my family out of bed at an ungodly hour to head up the river. We were going on an expedition and we had such fun.

Our area here has a huge number of American Bald Eagles that winter along the river. They come down to avoid starving while their own lakes have frozen over and fish are very hard to find on a frozen lake. The river doesn't freeze over very easy and even when some areas freeze over the traffic on the river especially around the locks keeps water flowing. I have heard that when much of the riven is frozen you can see dozens around the dam and locks catching fish. In order to do that though you need to go out in the absolute freezing cold and sit and wait. Sounds like fun no?

So, I woke up my family and put a bag full of snacks in the car and packed up the winter gear and the camera and the Boy's telescope and the Boy's binoculars and we set out with coffee in hand.

I had picked a day when our entire family could go and when they had some fun things going on near the locks and dam. They were going to have a Master's of the Sky show with birds from the local bird sanctuary and they were supposed to have a hot air balloon ride and they had tours of the locks and dam and trolley tours to see many of the Eagles in the area.

We showed up at the crack of dawn on the river because that is when Eagles and most birds are the most active. I really wanted to see them fishing on the river and I knew that would require us to be up early enough to drive the 45 minutes to see them fish at dawn. We made it just after dawn and drove over to a small island on the river. We parked our car and hopped out to see this.


I know that it doesn't look that exciting to the naked eye and my pictures do not do this justice because our lighting was poor and I only have the one basic lens for my camera, but if you look over at those trees you can see four Bald Eagles in those trees. They would fly around and swoop down and grab fish and take it back to the trees to eat. They would soar and chatter to each other. I will be honest and let you know that I was excited about this trip and when we saw them right there sitting in the trees I was very excited, but when I heard the Eagles calling to each other and doing the chatter type noises that they make, I was just beaming. You see I am a bit of an Eagle nut... but really that is another post. When I heard them calling to each other as they flew around, I got all bug eyed and looked at John and about squealed, "OH! I never thought I would hear that in real life!!!" There was another young couple that was stopped there watching the Eagles and I knew that at that point they thought I was a total nut case. I really didn't care.

So, we watched them there for quite a while and I took tons of pictures but most of them are worthless because the lighting had much to be desired and my lens just didn't remotely cut it.


I did get to watch this trio in the tree as the lowest one was eating a large fish. All three of these guys are adults. They actually don't get their white head until they are about five years old and we saw many, many juveniles. I was fun for me to guess how old they were by their markings. Do you see how easy it is to entertain me?!

I will spare you the other pictures as they were equally impressive, but we drove down the road a ways and found another young eagle dining on the side of the river. I hopped out of my car, but he took off as soon as he heard us. When I walked down to the side of the river I found a HUGE dead fish. It was about the size of my six year old. I am sure he was munching some nice washed up fish for lunch. I missed seeing him up close, but as we are really their only predator, it is best that he is scared.

We went to the locks and dam for our show after we did breakfast at McDonald's in town and we were not disappointed in that show at all! It was amazing! They flew these birds right over our heads and our show was the only one not sold out that day. I suspect that most people didn't want to get up as early as we did, but I think that they probably missed out on much Eagle action by getting up later.



This was the first bird that they brought out. He is a Harris Hawk and he was gorgeous! You could actually feel his wings as he flew over us. We had to remain seated as they are trained to fly to people who were standing. They would walk the birds around so we could see them really up close.



This was a vulture from Africa. I am sure he had a better name then that but I couldn't remember. Do you know why they don't have feathers on their heads? It is so they don't end up covered in the dead animal they are eating every time they stick their heads in a carcass. Nice eh?


A Great Horned Owl. Doesn't he look noble? And smart? I thought he was so exquisite. Regardless he is not very bright. Two thirds of his head is eyes... so guess what the remaining one third is. Yup. His small brain. We still love him though!



This is a sweet Barn Owl. I think they are so cuddly looking and soft. I am sure that their beaks and talons are not friendly but they are my favorite of the owls easily.



This is an American Kestrel. He is a Falcon actually, but I think he is the cutest falcon. We are supposed to have these around here, but I haven't seen any in the wild yet. Hopefully we will before we move. They can hover in place which is amazing to me. This little boy was only a year old and so he didn't completely listen to his workers and he did perch for a little bit on the one wire in the tent. It was sweet, but thankfully he didn't perch on me! In this picture she was talking about how to tell the boy Kestrels from the girls.



They brought in the Bald Eagle at the end of the show and this is how she entered the tent. She was trying to get her balance and she came in with wings flapping. I heard a very audible gasp from right behind me. My husband had never seen a Bald Eagle in person like this and she was huge! The girls are bigger then the boys and Patriot was a sight to behold.



She scared me only slightly when she looked at me like this. Yikes.



Patriot was brought to the bird sanctuary when she was a young Eaglet twelve years ago. She hadn't fledged yet and the nest that she was in was knocked down by a wind storm. It fell in the water and her two siblings drowned. When she was found she was very sick and had pneumonia. Her lungs were permanently damaged and though she is healthy in every other way she would not be able to survive in the wild.



Their size is amazing. Look at her talons. She is sitting on the hand of a grown woman with large heavy leather gloves on. Amazing.

After this show we went on a tour of the locks and dam.



This would be the youngest Eagle watcher in the family standing on the locks. She really needs her own binoculars. Maybe in her Easter basket? Maybe I will get a pair in my Easter basket too!



This was the view down the river from the Lock and Dam. It was so very overcast.

After that tour we went on our trolley tour and we were able to see an older abandoned Eagle nest and we were able to see this fellow fairly close up.



He took off shortly after this picture and flew back towards the river. If you looked around there you never knew where you were going to see an Eagle.



We watched an Eagle soaring just below the locks with the gulls. Here he is right in dead center. It looks like he may have been fishing but maybe he was just having fun.

We went home after the trolley ride and we took naps before we headed to church that night.

If you are interested in checking out the source of my fascination with Bald Eagles go ahead and look at these Eagle Web Cams. We watch several of the nests but our favorite nest is at Pelican Harbor. We know these Eagles by tag numbers as well as by name. We know the eaglets they have had in the past few years and we do get a huge kick out of watching them on the computer. If you have any questions let me know!

Now... time for bed!

4 comments:

hip chick said...

Wow that one close up of the eagle is so majestic. It sounds like you had a day not soon forgotten. I love when my family has days like that.

Tricia said...

HOW STINKIN' COOL....I want to do this sometime....you'll have to fill me in on the info later!

applesofgold said...

Amazing post Anna! I am glad that your love for eagles lives on for nest watching this year :) I especially loved the pic of The Girl you included here...very clever!

Jill (Sneaky Momma) said...

Anna, these photos are majestic. I can see why you'd be fascinated by the eagles. I am, too.
Not too long ago, a bald eagle made her nest in the Texas hill country near the ranch where my husband grew up. It was wild! The nest was right off a highway believe it or not. The town had to set up a place off the side of the road for spectators and such. It was so surreal.

 

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