Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eagle reconnaissance

Bald eagles have made a remarkable resurgence thanks to laws protecting them. Our symbol of the United States is now commonplace along rivers and coastlines. We even have nesting pairs of "urban eagles" which can be a little more challenging to live with than, say, goldfinches. For starters, they are raptors. Although they prefer fish and are often seen hunting above rivers and bays, they will also pick off a duck on the water if fishing isn't so great. Or well-fed chickens from backyard coops. They are opportunistic hunters, and will even steal prey from another eagle or raptor.

When I spotted a bald eagle flying low over a lavender farm I was visiting last week, I figured he or she was hunting or maybe just doing some reconnaissance for future hunting trips. Wikipedia defines reconnaissance as a mission to get information (about an enemy or, in this case, prey) by visual observation or other detection methods. 

About an hour later, two eagles landed in another tree very close to where arts and crafts vendors were located. I heard another visitor say something about the pair nesting in the tree. I didn't think so, especially since both eagles were male. I was too busy shooting to say anything though. 

The eagle pair alternated watching something on the ground, along with another male eagle in a tree about 100 feet away.

These eagles were clearly scoping out something. They would talk to each other and to the eagle in the other tree. Eagles have a call they use with other eagles that are part of their extended family. It's a very unique song that sounds more like a chirp than the screech we often associate with raptors.

They took off from the tree and landed several times.

After watching and photographing them for about a half hour, I walked around the grounds and found what caught their interest. One of the vendors has a mobile chicken coop surrounded on all sides and the top with wire. In addition to a variety of chickens, there is a peacock, peahen, and three new baby peafowl. The peacock was hiding behind one of the houses. He probably realized he was a big colorful target! I have photographs of the pea-couple from another trip and my growing Talons gallery on my website under Fauna.

The friend I was with grew up on a farm. Her parents are retired but continue to raise chickens. They have lost several to bald eagles. In the past couple of years, they have taken steps to protect their flock with wire above in addition to the 8-foot fence to keep raccoons and coyotes out.

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