Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Three Nest Day

In the 1980s there were but three bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania, all far to the west near the border with Ohio. It wasn’t just in Pennsylvania that eagle nests were few and far between, they were in trouble throughout their range with the exception of Alaska and Canada’s Pacific coast. While shooting and habitat loss contributed to the eagle’s decline, the primary cause was the widespread use of DDT which caused their eggshells to be so thin they broke beneath the incubating bird.

The use of DDT has been curtailed and there were major efforts to reintroduce bald eagles. In the intervening years the number of bald eagle nests in Pennsylvania has gone from three to over 300. One of those nests is on a steep hillside above the north branch of the Susquehanna River and adjacent to a heavily-traveled highway. The nest has been there since at least 2016, at eye level when standing along the roadway.

This year there had been two eggs and then two young birds in this nest, but one either died or was pushed out of the nest by its sibling. I first photographed the eagles at the nest in mid-April when the remaining chick was about three weeks old –

In mid-May I returned to photograph the birds. It was a hot and sunny day, the eaglet was sheltering in the shade of a large limb and panting to keep cool –

With eaglets of this age the parents spend much of their time elsewhere, returning only to feed the young. I’d been squeezed between the road’s guide-rail and the steep drop-off for about 45 minutes when the adult female swept in with food for the young one –

She stayed for less than five minutes before departing. The young eagle then spent some time moving around the nest and at one point balanced precariously on the edge before settling down and surveying its world –

While adult bald eagles can be said to look regal, that’s not a good description of the young one – especially when it expels a pellet of indigestible material (as do all raptors) –

Shortly afterwards it began to exercise its wings with much flapping, a necessity to build the muscles used in flight –

That done the eaglet proceeded to preen it’s new feathers –

Next came a hike around the nest during which it rearranged some of the nest’s structure and furnishings –

And more wing exercises and flapping –

All that activity on a hot day must have been pretty tiring, so the eaglet settled down, panting and spreading its wings to dissipate heat –

Suddenly the eaglet lay down flat in the nest, looking skyward –

The alarm was apparently caused by two turkey vultures riding the breeze along the steep sidehill. The vultures soon rode the breeze downstream and out of sight. But still the young eagle lay flat, looking up. So I too looked up and saw nothing for quite some time – until my merely human eyes picked up a dot high in the sky. The camera’s telephoto lens revealed the dot to be a third-year bald eagle soaring on a thermal (a rising column of warm air) –

By now the nest was in deep shadow while the far side of the valley was in bright sunlight so the opportunities for photography were very poor. I’d been there for about two hours and it was time to pack up; I put the good camera in its pack and had the pack on my back before glancing at the nest once again – just as the adult female swept in again, bringing more food for her eaglet –

Time to leave and head south. About fourteen miles away as the eagle flies, but much further by road I stopped to photograph another eagle nest – this one on a smaller creek and much further from the road, and not on the official inventory of eagle nests in the state. One adult was in the nest, as was at least one eaglet, while the other adult perched above them –

The eaglet in this nest appears to be somewhat younger than the first one pictured in this post –

In February 2020 I photographed a common raven taking an egg from this eagle nest while both adults were occupied with driving an immature from their territory –

Onward says I, and so back on the road and past yet another bald eagle nest, this one in a huge sycamore and almost obscured by the new spring foliage on adjacent trees –

That foliage is a portent of things to come and the rapidly diminishing chance of getting good photos of these nests’ new generation of bald eagles.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

An Afternoon at the Beaver Pond

Early afternoon is a bad time to see wildlife but the morning had been taken up by chores and a Zoom gathering and there were things to do at home later in the day. For any chance to experience nature on this day it was in the afternoon or not at all.

Beaver ponds are one of the best places to see wildlife and to sit quietly, basking in the sun like an old turtle on a log; my favorite beaver pond beckoned so that’s where I went. Unfortunately there was a stiff breeze and harsh sunlight, therefore wildlife would probably be scarce and photographic opportunities few.

I set up my makeshift blind on the edge of the pond and settled down expecting to stay there for several hours. As expected, there was little wildlife activity: far overhead a red-tailed hawk circled lazily –

And out in the pond a Canada goose floated amid several old stumps –

The goose never left the stumps and the pond’s red-winged blackbirds and grackles never came close. In the sun’s warmth I almost took “an old man’s nap” and, after two hours, had just about decided to pack up and head home. The nap and the departure were canceled by the chirping of an osprey as one flew in carrying a fish it had caught somewhere else –

And proceeded to land in one of the dead trees rimming the pond –

With that it began feeding on what appeared to be a fairly large catfish –

The stiff breeze buffeted the osprey to the extent that it had to use its wings to maintain balance –

The wind made taking a video of the osprey difficult – the tree swayed, the bird moved and I swayed – but I tried anyway. Around the two minute mark you’ll see a raven make a pass at the osprey –

The raven, surprisingly, flew on without harassing the osprey further in an effort to get a free meal; soon afterwards the osprey left with its fish – and I left too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A Morning at the Beaver Pond

If you want to see or photograph wildlife there’s no better place than a beaver pond. And so, for a number of years, especially in the spring, I’ve spent time sitting at the edge of a pond where beavers make their home.

One of my camera traps has also been at the edge of the beaver pond for five years where it’s captured images of everything from white-footed mice to bears and a bald eagle; those photos and videos were the subjects of a number of blog posts.

Because my favorite beaver pond is in an area that’s open to hunting and May is spring turkey season, it was time to bring the camera in for a month. Since I was going to the pond to get the camera, it was a great opportunity to spend a couple of hours sitting at the pond in my improvised blind (three four-foot long plant stakes and a camouflage mesh military scarf).

I’d been at the pond for about a half hour when a male mallard landed with a grand splash. He was soon joined by another male – the ladies are probably somewhere along the edge of the pond incubating eggs.

The mallards soon disappeared among the beaver canals and vegetation on the far side of the pond. And then came the plaintive whistling call of a wood duck; soon one, and then a second male wood duck landed across the pond –

The wood ducks swam around and fed among the plants at the edge of the open water until one climbed up on solid footing and preened for a while –


As I watched the wood ducks, two great blue herons flew overhead followed by a lone raven; then a female wood duck flew in and landed.

None of the ducks came near, they were busy feeding along the far edge of the pond and finally disappeared into the pond's emergent vegetation. With that it was time to gather up the camera trap and head for home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Looking Beyond 80 – the third three months

Four times I’ve undertaken a project to take a good or interesting photograph each day for a year, this time as a personal celebration of turning 80. In this post are photographs from each and every day of the third three months of my 81st year.

Fifty-two of those years were spent managing natural resources and for most of those years I carried a camera in forest and field. But I became a naturalist long before beginning a career in natural resources. My parents introduced me to the wonders of nature, and a fascination with the natural world has continued ever since.

During my high school years I began taking landscape photos with my father’s camera and then, while I was in college, bought my first 35 millimeter camera. My focus during those years was landscapes, including waterfalls and picturesque trees. A few years later I began concentrating on wildlife of all kinds and sizes and amassed a collection of 35mm slides. Shortly after good digital cameras became available I used my last roll of film.

And so here we are, continuing this collection of daily photographs that began last August 3rd, my 80th birthday. The photographs from the first and second three month periods were posted here and here



















Thus the third three month period of my 81st year on this green earth comes to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed viewing my photographs as much as I’ve enjoyed taking them