24 January 2008

Very big birdwatching!

I have birds on the brain this week, moreso than usual, and when Shirl from Shirl's Gardenwatch left a comment about a bird count this weekend, it reminded me that I'd better get a related post up. But first, if you aren't the sort to read the comments left in a post, here's what Shirl asked us about on her own blog:

Just a thought – if any of my visitors outside the UK would like to do their own bird count on the weekend of 26-27 January you could pop a comment on this post with your results and I will add them to my results posting. Alternatively if you would like to do your own post just leave a comment here telling me and I will add a direct link to your posting on my results posting and people from the UK will see what birds you have in your gardens. This could be very interesting indeed to see what birds visit gardens in an hour across other parts of Europe, Canada and America. Please do consider joining me - it could be fun. Mmm thinking about this some more I might just send out some invitations!!

Well, Shirl, I'll do that for sure, and here's one of the birds I'll be watching--not IN my backyard, but for sure flying over it. For 17 years now, the nearby community of Sheffield Mills has been holding an Eagle Watch festival on the last weekend in January and the first weekend in February. Our part of Nova Scotia has been known for twenty years or more as the site of the largest overwintering population of bald eagles in eastern North America.

Kings County is also home to the majority of poultry producers in the province, many of them in Sheffield Mills, and in past years, the farmers used to feed the eagles the mortality from their barns. Most don't do that anymore, thanks to the paranoia about bird flu (another scaremongering situation that I won't rant about today), but the population continues to thrive and flourish--there are something like 500 eagles around the county throughout the winter months, and it's not usual to see dozens of them sitting in trees near a farm...just in case there might be dinner served.

It happens that while some of the bald eagles overwinter in our county then head to Cape Breton and other locales for the breeding months. However, some of them stay here yearround, including a handful that live and nest here in Scotts Bay. There are chicken barns here, and also the mudflats at low water, and plenty of woodlands around; so hardly a day goes by that I don't see at least one eagle. It doesn't matter if I see one a day or a hundred: I never, ever get tired of looking at them. They make my heart glad, whether they're sitting in trees digesting their dinners, playing on the air currents off the Lookoff, or arguing with one another over a tasty morsel in a farm field.

Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote more than a decade ago, that's still online:
We're fortunate to live in a place which eagles have decided is a good place to spend the winter. Being opportunists who would rather eat carrion that is found or provided for them than to hunt for themselves, more than four hundred eagles now frequent eastern Kings county, which is also home to 90 percent of the poultry producers of Nova Scotia.

While this largest of North American raptors has a reputation for being shy and even reclusive, the eagles that populate my neighbourhood give the lie to that tale. Often one can approach them as they perch in one of the large "eagle trees" of the area, as they digest their meal or survey their domain for other offerings or just socialize. On several occasions, while on horseback, I have come within a few metres of them and have been able to watch them and their escort of ravens for some time. This is perhaps because they regard my four-legged friend not as an interloper but merely as another aspect of the food chain.

Interestingly, one of the events this weekend will be the release of an eagle that has been rehabilitated after an injury. I haven't found out anything more about this, or where the eagle was rehabilitated (probably through the Natural Resources people in Kentville). I suspect the release will happen quietly, away from the gaggles of people that will be hanging out around Sheffield Mills, looking up into trees (and sometimes, taking photographs of seagulls or crows, mistaking them for eagles--I'm not joking about this!), but I can't help but wonder what that marvelous bird will feel like when he can once again feel the wind under his wings.

Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


  1. hello jodi. just popping by to say thank you for identifying the california poppies i love so much. i enjoyed your posts on the eagles and gardening for the birds.

  2. I'm surprised that you said "it's not usual to see dozens of them sitting in trees near a farm..." I always thought that these eagles were much like our Wedge-tailed's in that they would predominantly hunt alone.

    Obviously the tucker's good in Nova Scotia.

  3. Great informative post, as always, thanks for your good work. I would love to participate in the bird count, do you just pick an hour and start keeping a record? Can it be any hour? When we lived in central Pennsylvania, many years ago, I took my girl scout troop to a place called Hawk Mountain, a preserve and bird watching park. We hiked up the mountain with the girls to see what we could see. Many watchers were up there with cameras and binocs, to see the bald eagles that had stopped there on their migration. We had only our naked eyes, but definitely saw them. Very thrilling, indeed.

  4. No eagles here, but ravens, and since I live in Uppsala (burial mounds and viking museums and all) I find it rather appropriate. Unfortunately I can't do any bird count in my garden since it's indoors. Unless the plush parrot and the plush eagle (!) will do?

  5. It would be fun to see so many Bald Eagles in one place. We are lucky to have 18 in one place. We have only seen this one time around here. It was during winter and a group of juveniles were spending the winter together where we like to bird. We have had as many a 8 together this winter. Fun to watch them socialize.

    We know where there are several nests in our area. One if very accessable near a county road. People from all over come to see them nesting. If you are diligent you can watch them bring food to their young etc. Good entertainment.

  6. Great post, Jodi. As you know, I keep an "eagle eye" out for these babies on our lake. There's a pair that lives on the opposite shore who hunt all along the banks and catch fish on the fly. Last year an eagle landed in our tree - I nearly had a coronary. They're not as prevalent here, but the introduction progam has been very successful and our numbers are rising. Our Eagle Weekend is coming up and Carroll and I are heading to the dams and to Waterloo yet again in hopes of seeing more of these exquisite birds. Lovely post!!!

  7. Eagles? Wow! The best I can come up with is wild turkeys in my neighbourhood. LOL

    Only kidding ya! (Although we DO have wild turkeys.) I think this is a worthwhile cause. The number of birds across North America are down and no one seems to know why. This bird count may help toward finding some answers.

  8. These are such majestic birds! I've never attended the Eagle Watch in The Valley, but they have something similar in/near Maitland, Hants Co. There are nesting areas there, I believe. There's something very humbling about watching an eagle, or any large bird, take flight.

  9. Wow, Jodi :-D

    Thanks for the link back - that's excellent! I look forward to your count :-D

    Frances - its for any hour of the day and you will see more details through the link on my post 'What will you see?'.

    Thanks to all who will consider doing a count :-D

  10. Jodi, I have just published a post about the RSPB birdwatch event, using a link to your blog, Shirl's blog and the RSPB website. Instructions were given to leave the count on Shirl's comment page. I have left her a comment telling her about my post as well. Hope this is okay, let me know if something needs to be changed. Thanks, Frances at Faire Garden.

  11. How wonderful to see eagles on a regular basis! Great photos too :)

  12. This is really great to see eagles everyday. They are so special. Thanks for beautyful pictures and lot's of information.

    I will do my count and I will post it on my blog.

    Poland is participating in Bird Count since 4 years. So little buddies will be counted here as well.

    I will publish the results on my blog.

  13. What a gorgeous photo that first one is! I've seen an eagle up close like that, but it was in a rehab center for birds. There is a well-known nesting area near us (more near Kara) that we keep an eye on every time we pass it and sometimes we'll see them sitting in the nest. I posted about it here

    How fortunate you are to get to see them so often!

  14. What beautiful photographs of eagles. Lovely posts.

    Dig the colour of your blog!!

  15. Super nice photos and an excellent idea! If I were not on a venture of my own, I would be inerested in doing a backyard watch.-Maybe your friend will try it again in the future or better yet expand it to people who wnat to bird outside of their backyard.

  16. I've never seen an eagle...other than in a wild life preserve. they're just amazing...and beautiful.

  17. We too get Bald Eagles here but a person really needs to be watchful ... usually looking where the roadkill have landed and there will usually be one.

    About Shirl's bird count: sounds identical to our Christmas bird count, yes? I have tried several times to load her page but it just isn't cooperating. I'd participate but don't know how or where, or where to register. I'll do a bird count today and hang on to the results. If I don't hear back from you, I'll simply post it on my blog as an FYI, how's that?

    PS: Since you've done the change to your blog, it loads WAY faster and now I can leave messages!
    Diane Sand to Glass
    Diane's Flickr photos


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