26 January 2008

A garden of eagles

When I got up this morning at 0630 and looked at the thermometer, my heart sank. It was nearly 0 degrees F then, and the wind was blowing, creating a wind chillfactor of about minus a hundred and leventy-three. I figured that the birdwatching wouldn't be all that great in the back yard, but I'd go back to bed for a while and then go check out the eagle situation in Sheffield Mills and Kingsport.

I'm really glad I did. Now, two things about these photos before we go any further. The photos in my previous post aren't mine; one is from US Fish and Wildlife (as noted); the other is just a file in my computer, in one of my graphics/image programs. All the images today, however are mine; BUT! I didn't use the tripod and I didn't get as close as I would have had it not been Eagle-Watching weekend. With so many people around watching them while they fed, I didn't want to either set up the tripod or edge in closer, because then everyone else would have come in closer and disturbed the birds.

One of the poultry farmers was assigned to put out dead stock for the eagles in this particular viewing site three times this morning. Now, I figure eagles must have some sort of ESP (Eagle Supper Perception) because there's one or two...then a few more...and then more. Quite a few more. The most that are in any of these photos is 15 eagles, but there were easily 30 or more feeding at any one time. I just couldn't get them all into my photos!

Quite a few more! Those with brown heads and tail feathers are juveniles, or as I call them, "teenage eagles". They tend to be on the lower end of the pecking order in these feeding sessions.

But there are a lot of arguments about who's gonna get what particular tasty meal. Eagles are opportunistic feeders, meaning they'll eat pretty much whatever they can: fish down at the shore, small animals and other birds, or carrion such as roadkill--or, as in this case, chickens.

If you've never seen eagles on the ground, or doing these take-off and landing routines, you might not know that on the ground, they're rather ungainly. I maintain they have a gait not unlike a drunken sailor, a sort of rolling, comical gait. My husband says when they're coming in to land, they look like they're wearing rubber boots.

They make all kinds of curious noises, from their usual cries when in flight to a host of clicks, screams, chirps, twitters (yes, really). Some of them probably mean, "Back off! Get your own chicken!"

For all I chuckle about their behaviours, they make my heart ache with happiness to watch them. And judging from the faces of the dozens of other bystanders also watching...they make a lot of people happy. And proud that this mighty bird is back from the brink of endangered to a thriving population again.

There are usually some sycophants hanging around; ravens, crows and gulls, who are waiting to clean up whatever the eagles might leave behind. The eagles chase them off, but rather hap-hazardly, depending on just how sated they're feeling.

Some prefer to take their chicken "to go"...

...After which they sit around in the 'eagle trees', preening, grumbling, digesting, and watching the eagle-watchers.

You lookin' at me? You lookin' at ME?

It's supposed to be milder tomorrow, so I'm hoping for better success in my backyard birdwatching; I did check when I came home this afternoon, but the only visitors at the time were my usual collection of chickadees, some redpolls, and the hairy/downy woodpecker. But I figure the eagles more than make up for it!


  1. Jodi...it is unfathomable to think of seeing so many eagles at one time. Thanks for putting up the pix, they are tremendous. I have done my count for the birdwatch but need to look up the proper names and get it organized before the post is published. Thanks for letting us in on this!

    Frances at Faire Garden

  2. Great pictures of eagles fiesta :)
    My birdwatching was not possible today - did not see any bird, cos we have terrible wind - maybe tomorrow it will get calmer.

  3. Hi again, Jodi :-)

    That really must have been quite a sight today! I cannot imagine seeing the scale of that bird sitting in a tree above me!

    I did manage a count today but mine was disturbed by a much smaller Sparrowhawk half way through my count :-(

  4. Jodi,
    That must have been an awesome experience. I would love to see that many eagles in one place.

    I tried counting birds today, but there were so many sparrows and starlings, I gave up. I'll try again tomorrow. I'm going to pick this post as a favorite!

  5. What a show for a little bit of dead chicken. I would love to see such a sight some time. I can just imagine all the sounds and commotion. A great post.

  6. jodi, these photos are amazing! Though cold, you couldn't have had a better day otherwise. What a breathtaking sight. :)

  7. These pictures are awesome! Glad to see the American Bald Eagle making a comeback. You were very lucky to see such a sight. Thanks for sharing.


  8. Beautiful. I have never seen a bald eagle how lucky of you to see so many. They are just wonderful and gorgeous birds. They looked like a fun day.

  9. Breathtaking, awesome, amazing! I've never seen even one eagle, but so many together is really something to see.

  10. Great picturs and commentary. I think the only time I've seen a eagle is in the local zoo, so that hardly counts. I wonder if any one did video of the event and put it on YouTube. I'd love to watch the landings and the gait of the eagles.

  11. OH MAN!!!!!!! Now THAT'S EAGLE WATCHING!!! My friend Carroll and I are heading back up to Waterloo next week and to a couple of dams where eagles like to hang out, but we'll never see this many!!! I almost put up an eagle post today - glad I didn't. Your whole experience with the eagles just ROCKS!!!

  12. WOW! That's all I can think of to say...Wow!

  13. Beautiful photos! What a wonderful experience. I love your commentary - makes us feel like we were there with you.

  14. Too cool! I've always wanted to go to Starved Rock in western Illinois to see the eagles. Thanks for the vicarious thrill!

  15. What a wonderful opportunity! That would be just thrilling to see all those eagles at one time. Thanks for sharing your photos and experience with us.

  16. Such a majestic bird, the eagle ! Lovely photos, Jodi. I just can't imagine seeing an eagle in its natural habitat.

  17. Those are absolutely stunning photographs of the eagles. We have a local red tailed hawk that I sometimes have the pleasure of seeing up close, but nothing like what you have shared. Thank you!

  18. I think i would rather have eagles than snowdrops, ahh never mind. As for your dream flowers you would have to go a long way to get a more beautiful blue than the himalayan poppy.

    Wont be long now before the snowdrops appear..they look better coming through snow.

    Cheers Mark

  19. How cool is that?! Thanks for taking pictures and sharing. I never knew eagles couldn't walk better than a drunk. Haha!

    Katie at GardenPunks

  20. Wow. Now there's a bird feeder that the cats won't bother.

  21. Wow I have never been to Canning and seen the eagles. I am in Halifax now I moved from Kentville 4 years ago I am going to have to get over there and see them. I see them out to owl lake but only in the summer. Nice Pictures.

  22. Great post!!
    Never before I saw this wonderful eagles in a group. Really stunning photographs, thanks for sharing with us. Good luck with the book, I cross my fingers!
    Have a good time Wurzerl

  23. WOW... I am so impressed by this birds!! WOW! Thank you for showing them.

  24. I've never seen a Bald Eagle, although in some parts of OK you can see them. To see so many would be awe inspiring. I do have Golden Eagle on my property. They showed up a few years ago and next in our tall trees. Thanks.~~Dee

  25. Thanks Jodi for a marvellous post - so many great pictures - must get over there soon before they go back to Cape Breton. Saw a pair of hawks quartering at the shoulder of the mountain over here near Hall's Harbour the other day - must tell myself yet again o remember to take the camera with me when I go out!!
    Janet in Hall's Harbour


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