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Posts Tagged ‘bald eagles’

 “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other is wings.” Hodding Carter.

Bald Eagle in Baytown, Texas. -- Photo by Joanne Kamo

Travels With Maggie

I spotted a bald eagle yesterday. It was just outside the park hanging around the Snake River below the Minidoka Dam in Southern Idaho.

It’s a bird that always makes my heart beat a little faster. It was sitting up on a utility pole, then flew away to the other side of the river as I passed by.

I don’t know whether it was an early migrant from Alaska, where huge numbers of eagle spend the summer, of if it was one that had stuck around the area for the entire year. There’s always a few that do.

It really didn’t matter. Either way it was a magnificent sight. It’s pure white head caught the sunlight as it flew across the water and my breath ceased for a few seconds. The bird’s brilliant white head feathers indicated it was at least four years old. Before that age, bald eagles are ratty brown all over.

Of course there wasn’t time for me to get a picture, as if I even could take a decent shot of a moving target. So I turned to Joanne Kamo’s online art gallery http://www.pbase.com/jitams to illustrate my blog. Joanne, whose bird photos are among the most awesome I’ve ever seen, has given me permission to occasionally use one of her copyrighted pictures. She didn’t fail me.

While bald eagles are beyond my photographic capabilities, even I can take a decent picture of a wild turkey, such as this one in Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Her bald eagle photo took my breath away as quickly as did the real thing. If it doesn’t also cause you to gasp in delight, you’re as cold-hearted as a glacier and not someone I care to meet.

The sight of yesterday’s bald eagle made me grateful Ben Franklin didn’t get his way in having the wild turkey be our nation’s symbol. He thought the bald eagle was too much of a thief to represent our country.

I know he was right because I was once privileged to watch a bald eagle snatch a freshly caught fish from an osprey as it flew. The osprey was so frustrated that it chased the eagle until it came to its senses.

But the bald eagle today is also a symbol of what’s best in humankind. These birds were on the verge of becoming extinct when we Americans acted. Since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, bald eagles have regained healthy populations.

Sightings of them in the lower 48 states are becoming more common. And so I wish you good luck in having one of them fly your way.

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A pair of bald eagles, injured in the wild, that are living out their lives at the Brevard Zoo in Florida. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” — Carl Sandburg

Just for Today

Ever since I counted 149 eagles wintering at the Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area in Northern Utah, I’ve been a bit blase when spotting a lone bald eagle. Of course I still look for this symbol of our American heritage, and even experience a shiver or two when I do see one flying overhead or sitting atop a tall tree.

I appreciate the sightings all the more  because of this great bird’s comeback from near extinction with the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the banning of DDT.

This morning, however, the adrenalin-pumping thrill of eagle watching was back, thanks to a live, streaming video cam in Iowa that I watched on my computer here in Arkansas. The cam is aimed at a 1.5 ton eagle nest, 80 feet up in a cottonwood tree on the bank of Trout Run Creek at the Decorah Fish Hatchery. The large nest is being attended by a coupled pair of eagles.

When I first looked, all I saw was one of the adults sitting on the nest, on what I had read were three eggs. When next I looked, one of the adult eagles was gently feeding two chicks while the third egg was still unhatched. Reading a bit more, I learned that the first chick hatched Saturday, and the second yesterday. Perhaps the third will hatch today. The pair successfully fledged three chicks in 2010.

Great blue herons at Farmington Bay in Northern Utah, where I once counted 149 bald eagles on a February day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

As I write this, the eagle is now back sitting on her chicks to keep them warm. What appears to be a healthy breeze is ruffling the feathers of the adult eagle.

 You can hear the wind blowing, the creek babbling, the chicks peeping and just now the honk of geese flying somewhere overhead.

I plan to keep the feed to the site open on my computer today. Perhaps you would like to join me for the show. http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles

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Canada Geese at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Poets who know no better rhapsodize about the peace of nature, but a well-populated marsh is a cacophony.” — Bern Keating

Looking across Farmington Bay at the Wasatch Mountains. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Favorite Hikes:

 One of my favorite hikes when I lived in Northern Utah was a gentle trek on a circular boardwalk found at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center. http://tinyurl.com/45jykl6

Located in the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area just north of Salt Lake City, the mile and a half circular trail provides excellent views of wetlands wildlife.

 It was a trail I hiked early on weekend mornings, or in the early evenings after getting off from work. Whatever the time, however, my walk always began with a chorus of marsh wrens that was soon joined by a background of croaky frog chirps.

Hike slowly and look closely so you don't miss such things as the yellow-headed blackbird hiding in the rushes. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And there always surprises, like coming around a corner of cattail or bulrush to see coots or pied-billed grebes floating in a small bit of open water. Or climbing to the top the 30-foot observation tower to see avocets and northern shovelers off in the distance, and song sparrows and red-winged blackbirds flitting around below.

On a couple of occasions I even saw red foxes, including a den of young ones. And I almost always saw northern harriers and kestrels circling overhead. In the winter, bald eagles were a frequent sight, as were tundra swans in the spring.

Once a flock of graceful sandhill cranes flew close overhead, their rattling trumpet call echoing through the air. It was an experience that stirred my soul and made me grateful just to be alive. If you’re ever in the area, it’s a hike not to miss.

Just be sure and take some mosquito repellent with you. Mother Nature is kind, but not always considerate.

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“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” — Carl Sandburg

Although I saw no bear or fish, this majestic sculpture I left behind in Salmon, Idaho, was a fair representation of the wild and mostly secluded landscape my journey took me on this day. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My drive the next day was awesome. Not only did it take me through spectacular scenery it treated me to the sight of two bald eagles soaring against a cliff backdrop that heightened the details of their flight. Two adults, white heads glistening in the sunlight, flew before me, their magnificent wings stretched out gathering in the wind.

I understand the reasoning of Ben Franklin, who wanted the turkey to be this country’s national emblem because the bald eagle is a scavenging thief. But had he, I wondered, ever seen their majesty as I had this day. Not even the day I counted 149 bald eagles sitting around on the ice and in trees at Farmington Bay in Utah a half dozen years ago could compare.

The sighting came outside of Missoula, Montana, on Highway 90 through the Lolo National Forest.

Earlier in the day, I had driven for a ways along the Salmon River, bringing to the forefront grand memories of a raft trip I had taken down it through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. While I’m always reminding myself to live in the present and not the past, these memories, I decided, were part of this day and it was right to acknowledge them.

Leaving the Salmon River behind, I entered the Bitterroot National Forest and its poetic inspiring landscape.  Winding rivers, snow-capped mountains, roadside deer, purple, blue and yellow wildflowers. The entire 140-miles from Salmon to Missoula on Highway 93 were designated scenic byways.

Normally I would have stopped in Missoula, but storms were predicted for the next day and so I drove on, intending to reach my destination at Farragut State Park in the Idaho Panhandle, still almost 200 miles away by mid-afternoon. While it was indeed a long day’s drive for me, the sight of the eagles had vanished any weariness. It was as if I had a pair of bald eagles cheering me on the entire rest of the journey.

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