Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cold and Wet Observation - Nesting Eagles

(Excuse the terribly quality of these images - the bird was crazy far away and with overcast skies AND rain, well... you get the "picture").

I was off from work yesterday and knew it would be very windy today so I thought I'd take the trip to see the Bald Eagles at WFE again yesterday.  A friend of mine had been down a bit earlier but didn't see anything of interest (don't think he saw both, just the one on the nest).  When I arrived, a few birders were there with spotting scopes, but it looked like they were packing up and getting ready to leave.  When I walked out to the creek I felt the very cold wind and realized this wouldn't be that fun. After searching for the Eagle that wasn't on nesting duty and locating it about 1,000 feet away on the marsh, I went back to my vehicle to get a spotting scope and my Marmot Men's Precip Jacket and headed back out to the marsh as the rain began to fall.  

Aside from some duck flybys, nothing was happening.  As I looked out on the marsh at the Eagle I observed a number of corvids (crows - but I couldn't tell if they were all American crow or if some where Fish Crow so let's just call them corvids) congregating near the eagle in addition to some Greater Black-backed gulls (which are huge by the way - the largest gull species in the world as a matter of fact and having a maximum wingspan just shy of a male Bald Eagle).  What surprised me was the Eagle's complete lack of concern about these other species and vice versa.  Typically, raptors are magnets for murders of crow or marauding blue jays.  Red-winged black birds frequently chase and harass Osprey and conversely large raptors often scare away other species of birds.  This is not the case with this Bald Eagle (and I presume many Bald Eagles - though I have very little observation time to back that up) as it seemed completely content with its present company.

After spending some time in the rain observing the eagle as best as I could (the spotting scope was not terribly secure and the wind was relentless (good thing I don't get seasick!) but I observed a few instances of Crows walking right at the Eagle, as if they were trying to get a reaction from the much larger (and deadlier) bird.  But the Eagle was having none-of-it and remained on its perch (which after looking at the images turned out to a stick - which I couldn't see from my vantage point).  At one point, a Greater Black-backed gull came in very close and instead of intimidating the gull with its massive beak or turning its talons to the bird, it simply twisted its head and gave the gull a nonplussed expression - as if it say "Really? There's a whole marsh here!".

As the rain got more intense and my hands got colder (should have brought gloves), I heard the unmistakable chirp of the Osprey (which to this point had not shown up and had not been observed on the "nest" as it was last time I was down there.  The Osprey flew very near the Eagle Nest, calling out several times which I thought for sure would bring the adult BE over from the marsh to drive the bird away.  But the Eagle stayed put (certainly visually aware of what was going on, and hearing the Osprey chirp away), perhaps figuring it wasn't worth the effort unless the Osprey really started to harass its mate.  The Osprey then turned down the creek and patrolled the marsh (possibly looking for fish below) and I wondered if it would go after the Eagle which has been so tolerant of the other birds.  Sure enough, the Osprey slowly got closer and closer until it swooped down at the Eagle.  The Eagle (as expected) flashed its talons and wings which not only pushed the Osprey back up but spooked the loafing gull.  I stuck around for a couple more minutes to see if the Osprey would come back - but it continued west probably in search of fish.  The Eagle remained on its perch, soaking wet from the rain, waiting things out until it was time to take over nesting duties and I returned to my car soaked (but only from the waste down - thanks Marmot!).

You can see the wing of the Gull that was sitting right next to the Eagle.  He got out of there real quick!

Today is far too windy to bother going down - and tomorrow will likely be too busy with family activities to make a trip.  I'm hoping to get there on Monday, if even for my lunch break.  I have decided to focus my efforts on this nest instead of the one I first documented (you can read about that one here if you haven't been keeping up: Bald Eagles are Back) as it's much easier to observe the actual nest and the location is geographically advantageous because the Eagles (and Osprey) must funnel past my location when fishing or returning to their nests.  Hope everyone has a great Easter / Passover weekend!  By the way - can you spot the Eagle in the nest??

1 comment:

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