Saturday, February 15, 2014

Slick the Bald Eagle Uses a Telephone Pole and a Wing to Make A Hairpin Turn

11:27:13 AM  This morning, Patty, one of the one of the Eagle watching waitresses from the Edgewater Inn, a little breakfast and lunch place in Indian Ford, Wisconsin and  nearly on top of the dam on the Rock River, called to tell me one of the Eagles was in residence.   And there he is!

  11:27:13AM  I haven't gone closer this is a cropped photograph.  Is this a male?  I think it is.

11:27:19AM  He looks around with a glare.  DRAT!  I start to walk laterally away from him toward the dam.  He looks away for a few moments and looks back again.   I slowly try to get further away by going to the left and not raising my camera.  But I suspect now he was wondering why I was being so furtive though I was only trying to look nonthreatening.  Perhaps a fishing rod would have helped me blend in.  At any rate...
11:33:54 AM  He's off and across the river in no time.
 11:33:55 AM  One second later.

11:33:56 AM
11:33:57 AM
11:33:58 AM

11:33:58 AM   Mr. Eagle is just about to do something quite spectacular that I'd never seen before nor imagined.  I didn't realize what he had done in the moment while I was  there but only saw the move in the photographs just now.
 11:34:00 AM  He flies so close to the pole  that he can brush his right wing against it.  Not only slowing himself so that I loose focus,  but giving himself the ability to do a  turn, front to back, on the spot in no time at all. 

Absolutely stunning!  I can't tell you how excited I am to see this move!!!
11:34:02 AM  See?  There he goes back the same direction  he has just come from.  No muss, no fuss, no wasted time.

I saw Pale Male Jr., a Red-tailed hawk, who was much smaller than this bird with his 6 to 7 foot wingspan,  do an instant front to back turn in midair in a pigeon hunting maneuver. I have no photograph or video to slow down the action to see exactly how he did it, but he did it without aid of any surface and he did it in the blink of an eye.  I've never even seen a female Red-tail do it, let alone a full sized male eagle, but this guy is slick.  He gained the absolute same advantage that Junior had by using the pole.

Does that make Eagles tool users?

  Eagles ordinarily go back the way they came by curving in flight.  That takes time.  Which is of course dangerous if there is jeopardy.

11:34:03 AM  Then one second later he has made me loose my focus again by not only dropping down very  rapidly but he is now no longer backed by the bright sky but rather a dark screen of trees.  Very Slick.

I do believe we have found his name.  Slick the Bald Eagle.
11:34:05 AM  He is still reducing his altitude.
11:34:06 AM  Here is an uncropped photo of Slick's progress.  Keep in mind I'm using a long lens so the naked eye isn't even up to seeing this much.
11:34:07 AM  See him mid-frame against the snow?
11:34:08 AM  Now can you see him?  

Our little buddy Slick immediately upon reaching the darker back drop of the pines flew steeply up.
Here is a crop of the same image.  There he is.
11:34:09 AM  Now where is he? 

Here is a crop of the above photo.  Not that easy to see even when I pinpoint him.
11:34:10 AM  Where is he?

11:34:11 AM  And now?  Then I loose him completely. 

 Just beyond the red house on the right is a big curve in the river with a tall forested bank.

I scan slowly right.
11:38:24 AM Even with his white head and tail it took me almost five minutes to find him.
11:38:26 AM  Here is a crop. I realize that I am likely anthropomorphizing but does he look rather self satisfied to you?  

Note it has begun to snow.  You can see snowflakes against his dark back. 

11: 39:46 AM  While I'm scanning to see if  his mate is around.  Our little buddy Slick decides to move.  Their vision is at least 6 times better than ours so he can see if my eyes are looking at him even from this distance.
11:39:48 AM  He lands.
11:40:00 AM  It's not over yet.  He is still watching me.
11:40:40 AM  I stare at Slick and then I look at the Canada Goose.
11:40:49 AM  Then I look at these guys and think about them napping in the frigid water.  Then I cringe. DRAT! I've looked away too long.  It was less than a minute, but I know it was too long.
11:41:02 AM  Yes, indeedie.  Slick is absolutely nowhere in sight.  I pull out the binoculars to see if that helps.  I sweep the bank.  I check the island where he had been originally perched when I arrived.  I check the favorite tree  across the river with the squirrel dray.    I sweep the bank where he was seen last perched.   Nothing.

11:58:13 AM  It is snowing in true earnest. To the right is the bank where Slick was last seen.
11:58:18 AM  The Island on the left is the spot where I first spotted Slick.  This is a totally crazy snowstorm. Unbelievable.  When I got here there wasn't even a hint that it would snow.  The whole experience only too 31 minutes from the  time I arrived and look at it now.  I am extremely glad I'm only a few feet from shelter instead of deep in the woods.

 Welcome to Wisconsin.

I battle the snow over to the Riverside Inn.  I need to thank their eagle watching waitress Patty for texting me that Slick was in residence this morning.  Can't wait to tell her about Slick's telephone pole turn around.

Happy Hawking and Eagle-ing too!

Donegal Browne


Sally said...

I never cease to be amazed how you can track those fast-flying eagles and hawks with your long lens- I can barely track a songbird at my feeders! Stay warm

Donegal Browne said...

Actually I think the distance may help with tracking. And sometimes I just keep shooting on the trajectory that I think they are using. Keep in mind though, the eagles always loose me in the end. Raptors are terrifically crafty,aren't they?

Anonymous said...

When are you going to get back to the Red-tails?

Donegal Browne said...

Anon, never fear. Red-tails are the dearest raptors of them all. For me they have the most expressive faces and the most adaptive ways. They are always and endlessly fascinating and every one of them has an obviously different personality. How could I ever ignore them during hawk season. To me, the raptor nesting season will always remain "Hawk Season"...