Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gift of a feather

August 2-juvenile bald eagle
Not only are my favorite eagle family not hanging around the nest, I haven't seen any eagles in the area for the past week. At the end of July, I saw one youngster flying low over the nest area, followed by mama. They both flew toward the delta. The other juvenile spent long hours at the top of the trainer tree over a couple of days.

Mama heading back to the nest from the delta - August 2.
I'm going to try to get down to the beach at low tide next weekend to see if that's where they headed. Last year's baby was in the nest area until about mid-August. Bald eagles have about three months to get the whole hunting thing down before cold weather sets in and food sources dwindle.

I suspect that mama and papa are doing some intensive hunting lessons down in the Nisqually delta. Last year, I saw a lot of juveniles along the Nisqually River about this time of year. I spent several hours during a minus tide in the delta and saw both mama and papa eagle. I've posted some images from that trip in a Low Tide gallery. A friend asked how I could be sure they were my favorite eagles. Because mama caught something a flew up the ridge, which she does a couple of times a day. If you missed that post, you can read it here: Eagle Hunting Grounds.

One evening during the last week of July there wasn't much activity at the nest. When we got to the intersection near the golf course, I spotted mama eagle flying directly toward us, about 20 feet above. It was getting dark, about 8 p.m., and I was shooting directly west. So the resulting images are lower resolution. She looked right at me and dropped something. I felt badly because I thought she had dropped food she might have been carrying. When I blew up the image on my camera screen, I realized that she dropped a feather!

Of course, collecting eagle feathers is illegal unless you are a member of an Indian tribe. When I told a good friend who works with Washington Tribes and is married to an Indian, she looked surprised and said, "That's a very special gift!" Then she asked if I found the feather. I looked around the area but didn't see anything that even looked remotely like a feather. Maybe mama eagle knows that, so I have her gift recorded in a photograph. My friend offered to get a group together to go search for the feather, but I already have my gift. I'm blessed to be able to experience this remarkable family of urban eagles.

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