Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hatchlings ahead?

My favorite bald eagle pair are spending more time near their nest, but not in it. Looking back at when I first started photographing them a year ago, it looks like they were tending eggs in April. So perhaps soon we'll see mama on the nest and papa guarding from the snag.

 Yesterday, we saw both land in a tree near the aerie. Then papa flew off to the delta and mama flew to the snag.

Coming soon, segments from my book, tentatively titled "Learning the Eagle Way, a raptor's rhapsody."

In the meantime, take a look at my Talons Gallery.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Snowy owls

This winter Washington experienced a much larger influx of snowy owls than normal. These magnificent birds have been reported everywhere from wildlife refuges to city rooftops. Normally quite rare here, the word is these tundra-dwellers experienced a population explosion up north, followed by a population crash among their favorite prey animals: lemmings and voles.

In January, birders talked about seeing a pair of snowies at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. I have been at the refuge frequently this winter and saw lots of other wonderful birds but no snowy owls.

I decided to take a trip over to the coast to visit an old friend and see if we could spot any snowy owls. A couple of weeks ago, local birding sites were showing reports that snowies were still hanging around Damon Point, a windswept spit of land about a quarter mile wide with Grays Harbor on one side and the Pacific on the other.

Hoping to see one or two, we talked to people returning from the point as we headed out. All said they saw two or three owls. We took the bay side trail and saw a few water birds but no raptors. We approached the tip and stopped for lunch. Over the grassy area between the two waterfronts, there were a few photographers taking up position. That's when we spotted two owls sitting on a log and two more beyond. Altogether, we saw seven snowies, all looking like they were ready for an afternoon snooze.

Unlike many owls, snowy owls are diurnal and hunt day and night. The owls we saw are youngsters. Adult male snowies are pure white. Females have some black. Juvenile males and females have quite a bit of black bar markings. They were all quite tolerant of human and even dog activity. They allowed people to get pretty close, maybe within 30 feet.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Urban eagles nesting

My favorite eagles have been adding fresh branches to their urban aerie. The branches look cut with human tools during the clearing that's been happening on our trails. I spotted this pair carrying branches from the trail near my house a few months ago after a wind storm. Maybe next month there will be eggs to nurture.Their nest is in a ideal spot protected from winds and predators. It makes it tough for photographers to get a good view of growing babies though.

"Listen! I think I hear a human!"

I'm going to try out some names for this pair, other than mama and papa eagle. Maybe Adonis and Aphrodite or Artemis and Orion. Last year, I called the papa eagle (on the right in this photos) "Spot" because I could see him like a white spot in the trees.