Monday, January 19, 2009

Eagle Watching

In Illinois and Missouri Eagle Watching is a popular winter activity. When the temperatures are very cold and the rivers farther up north freeze, then American Bald Eagles keep moving farther and farther south until rivers are open enough for them to fish. One of my favorite memories is of a cold but sunny day in mid-January when John and I had taken a day off from our work in the bronze repair studio and were driving down the Great River Road up near Marquette State Park. We had just been hiking and were on our way home when we noticed at least 30 cars parked along both sides of the road. We had no idea what was going on but knew it was some kind of spectacle. As we got closer we saw people looking up and little did I know I was about to witness a scene that I would remember with excitement for the rest of my life. The sky was full of large birds that I learned from someone in the crowd were Bald Eagles. As I looked through my binoculars I could see the white heads and tails - but only on some of them. It takes several years for the birds to develop this characteristic trait - before that they are all gray-brown.
There were birds soaring alone and birds in small groups. A few of the groups were the younger birds and they were exhibiting behaviors that I describe as "playing". They would start off together all going the same direction then one would intentionally bump into one of the others, that one would veer around in an arc and bump one of the other ones. This would be followed by more bumping, circling and soaring....eagle dancing!

The action in the sky was only half of the show. Out on the partially frozen river, a dozen or so large eagles stood on the ice near the breaks. Several were feasting on large fish that they had retrieved from the icy waters. This was quite a party!

No wonder people love to watch the eagles. We have been back many times and although we do not always see that much activity we usually at least see a few, even if at a distance it is always exciting to discover them perched in their high spots keeping a keen eye on the river. Oh, by the way, here at MasterWorks we have our own eagles....the ones you see in the pictures were made by our friend Lyle, the Neighborhood WoodWorker/Fisherman from Northern Minnesota. He does quite a fine job on his wood creations (he made the birdhouse in the background too) and I am proud to have some of his work. I wonder when he is working on the eagles, if he is thinking about the same thing they, fishing and fishing! Oh yah shure! Yu betcha!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Underrated Bird

There have been a lot of Blue Jay's on the grounds of John's bronze restoration and repair studio lately. Is it true that West Nile Disease killed off so many crows a few years ago that there is more territory for the jays and they have taken advantage of the available real estate? Whatever the case may be, I have been enjoying these colorful beauties. Sure, they are not as cuddly looking as the little chicadees or snowbirds or titmice. And some people think they are just plain mean. They are loud sometimes when they are threatened, but hey, if you are going to hold that against them, then you must also mention how territorial and aggressive western bluebirds can be and what about the constant fighting of the "sweet" little hummingbirds that everyone loves?!! After all it is a tough world out there and maybe there is something to learn from this bird. Speak up! Tell people what you think! Don't just sit back and be bullied by another creature just because it is five times your size!
This quiet moment for Mr. Blue was taken just before Christmas at our electric warmed bird bath. It was one of those frigid single-digit days and birds were flocking to our feeders and this water. Those prickly branches from the surrounding barberry did not deter one bird - in fact some of them waited their turns directly on the plant!