Fishermen unhook eagles, not fish
(COURTESY OF THE JANESVILLE GAZETTE, Published Sunday, July 8, 2007)
By Mike Heine/Gazette Staff WALWORTH
By Mike Heine/Gazette Staff WALWORTH
The most memorable part of a Canadian fishing trip for Walworth's Bob Hansen and his adult son Mike wasn't landing a trophy walleye or northern pike.
It was rescuing two bald eagles that tumbled into a lake after their talons tangled, probably during a midair battle.
Bob, Mike and fishing guide Ron Kaye were seeking walleye the afternoon of June 15 in Kabinakagami Lake in Ontario.
They heard a loud splash in the distance but didn't think much of it until a half-hour later, when they motored to a new fishing spot and saw two adult bald eagles struggling in the water.
"We couldn't figure out what was wrong," Bob said. "As we came closer, they didn't seem antsy or nervous.
"We took (Ron's) fishing net and lifted up the one wing. We could see their talons were locked together."
Bob put the landing net over the head of the closer eagle while Ron put on leather gloves and reached for the talons. Mike snapped photos and watched from the other side of the boat.
Ron was able to pry apart one set of the birds' toes with his hands, but he needed pliers to wedge the other two apart, Bob said.
Once free, the birds separated and swam toward shore away from each other.
"Just talking to anybody, nobody knew eagles could swim, but they can. They're funny looking, but they can. They flop," Bob said.
They followed the smaller of the two birds toward shore.
"We saw them get up on higher ground, then a little higher ground. We never did see them take off, but they were OK," Bob said.
Both birds were exhausted and presumably needed to dry out and rest before flying, Bob said.
Bill Volkert, a wildlife educator and naturalist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, thought the eagles were either fighting or courting in midair.
Because of the timing of the incident, it was more likely the birds were fighting, said Volkert, who has studied birds for 30 years.
In courtship ritual, the birds lock their talons in midair and tumble toward the ground, releasing at the last second to soar skyward again. It's rare, but not unheard of, for eagles to perform the ritual this late after the mating season, Volkert added.
Bob said the big birds were amazingly calm while the men helped.
"I don't know why, but they were. They were watching us close with their eyes.
"Their beaks are huge. You wouldn't want to tangle with one. They'd rip you to shreds. "We were more concerned with getting them free," Bob said.
The rescue probably saved the two birds from drowning, but it was very risky, Volkert said.
"It was definitely a bold move," Volkert said. "They did the right thing, and it's a good thing they were able to help (the eagles) in a way that didn't cause themselves any harm."
I love people who see what needs to be done and just go ahead and do it in a practical helpful way. No weenies these guys. I would like more info on the pliers though and hopefully the Eagles weren't too exhausted or shocky to eventually get it together.
In Central Park we've seen Pigeons, House Sparrows, Finches, and Woodpeckers swim. Now we know Eagles have the talent as well. If Eagle swimming is comparable to that of the smaller birds, they use a lurching breast stroke. From the rescuers description is sounds like they do. They flop forward as both wings go forward and then back in tandem. No Aussie Crawl for these guys. But none of the little guys had to stay afloat for a good length of time because their talons were entangled with another bird.
Therefore, not only should one not underestimate a Red-tail as we found with Jr. and Charlotte picking up where they left off in the care of their eyass but now Eagles need to be added to the group as well.