Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Eagle Ruminations

[Those familiar with the Wildlife Drive at Forsythe will recognize this aerial view of the West/Vogt pool. I was at the tower at Gull Pond when scanning revealed a suspicious raptor high and waaaaaaaay out, two miles out as calculated using Running Map.]

I didn't have a lot of time Saturday morning, but before heading home from Forsythe NWR (to shop for a new refrigerator, oh, yay), I made a quick check on the immature Little Blue Heron that spent the week near the Leed's Eco-trail Boardwalk (it was not present), then swung out to the Gull Pond Tower for a quick scan from the truck. A micro-dot (nano-dot?) soared far to the north, well beyond the North Dike, but it stopped me. At first there was no thought process beyond, "Golden." A presumptuous assertion on a bird perhaps two miles away.

It's got to be huge or I couldn't see it that far away.

Ohhhh (I think I said it out loud) - it just came up into a dihedral. (It was really windy and that messes with raptor shapes. This bird was in a slight glide a lot of the time, taking in the sails as it were, but periodically the wings would flatten out and the wing tips would come up, and stay up.)

It's holding it, can't be a bald.

Wingbeat's not right for a bald. Stiff, doesn't flex down, shallow. Rapid upstroke at the end of a series of beats (kind of like a Sandhill Crane's upstroke) and stays up.

It's dark, hard dark, colder than a bald.

A second bird came in and joined it. Flat-winged. Sometimes flexed downward. Not as dark.

I was in the truck this whole time, elbows propped on the door jam, looking through Zeiss 8's. Finally enough was enough, and I hopped out, grabbed the scope and quickly set it up on the tailgate. I could only zoom to 40X because of the wind and distortion, but 40X showed a short-headed (short necked might be more accurate) eagle, flashing light on the nape (even at 1.5-2 miles), discrete white patches on the wing, and an obvious white band at the base of the tail. Slimmer of wing next to the Bald Eagle, which had  an obvious big, long head/neck.

The mystery is that before all the calculations I knew what it was. Which means what? Not that I'm anything special. Just that I've been birding long enough to finally see enough Golden Eagles to recognize one.

No smarter than my dog, who knows what my truck looks like.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. You are too modest. Seeing a golden eagle two miles out, even with a scope, is quite a feat. But you are right, it IS a good feeling to know that after many years one can do something like that. I'm not there yet but there are times I am driving or walking and something - who knows what - causes me to look up and then I usually find something in a tree or flying. I have no idea how I could've seen the bird, but there it is. It becomes instinct, I guess.

    Margo D. Beller