Sunday, December 18, 2011

Giant eagle bird bath

A local newspaper recently reported that snowy owls have been spotted at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I decided to try my luck at spotting them myself yesterday. I checked in at the visitor center and learned there were no reports for Saturday but there are two that have been spotted fairly frequently in the past week.

I headed toward the boardwalk that takes you almost a mile into the Nisqually River delta. En route there, I saw a few photographers and bird watchers interested in something in the lagoon. What looked like either a very large bird or maybe a bird-like stump rose from the center of the lagoon.

Looking through my 300 mm lens, I saw that it was a juvenile bald eagle fishing, probably for clams. After conferring with some bird watchers, we decided it's a "she" (large bird with a large beak) about 2-3 years old.

Bald eagles look like golden eagles, osprey, and other birds of prey until they develop their characteristic white heads and tails when they are fully mature at 3-4 years old. This youngster eventually got tired of hunting and decided to clean up a bit. 

As I was photographing, I commented to one of my fellow bird watchers: "that's one ugly swan." Then she rose from the water and turned into a swan! Ok maybe a young swan.

It always amazes me that birds will bathe in pretty much any weather. I thaw out the iced-over bird bath next to my front porch and see finches, thrushes, and juncos taking advantage of the "hot" tub. The temp may be hovering right around 30 degrees F.

Presto chango! Voila! I am now a turkey! We all were amazed that the ducks stayed in the area. Nisqually bald eagles often pick off ducks and young geese at the refuge. Maybe this young eagle decided it was fish season and not duck season.

After about 15 minutes, she finished her bath and flew off, holding what appears to be a clam. A friend who lives in Ocean Shores pointed out the reason there are shattered clam shells along their streets is that seabirds drop them on paved streets to open them. It's probably easier to find them than if they dropped them on a rocky beach. I wonder if Nisqually birds do that?

My online Talons Gallery includes my favorites over the past year of raptor watching.

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