Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bald Eagles Along the River

Last week on a beautiful crystal clear morning I walked along the river where an adult bald eagle was occasionally to be seen perched in a riverside tree. That morning the usual tree was empty, but a bit further on an eagle flew up from below the bank, went a short way along the shore and landed in a tree, then flew on out of sight.
Curiosity aroused, I looked over the bank and there on the ice laid an injured or sick double-crested cormorant. The cormorant could raise its head but otherwise didn’t or couldn’t move. So, it seemed that the eagle intended to make a meal of the cormorant. Went back the next morning as the season’s first real snow was beginning to fall; there was no trace of the cormorant – it had provided a meal for the eagle or some other predator.

This brought to mind the first bald eagle I’d ever seen, 48 years ago on the tidal section of a tributary to Chesapeake Bay. That eagle took a duck from a flock that was feeding in a shallow backwater.
Proceeding along the river, I saw the eagle again, this time perched in the same tree as its mate. The male bird (upper right in this photo) was much more wary than the female and flew not long after it saw me. The female, on the other hand seemed to be much more tolerant of the human walking nearby and let me pass on by without flying.

Twenty-five years ago there were but three bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania, all in the northwestern corner of the state. It was a rare treat to see one of the birds here – and it was always a migrant or a bird wintering along one of the larger streams. How things have changed!
Thanks to the ban on DDT and reintroduction efforts by the Pennsylvania Game Commission there were reports of over 250 bald eagle nests in the state this year. It’s still a treat to see a bald eagle, but now it’s one we can enjoy with some regularity. 

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