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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pale Male and Octavia Take a Moment to Nearly Snuggle While Watching Their World Go By


Pale Male, right, and Octavia, left, sit companionably on one of the Carlyle's peak lights after copulating

They look like they are sitting close enough together that their feathers might brush against each other every now and again too.   My, my.

Just the fact that they are sitting this close, and side by side facing in the same direction isn't terribly common in Red-tailed Hawks.  Though if they share that particular perch there isn't all that much room for the usual foot width of space.  Our English foot not their feet, if you understand what I mean.

More often than not, Pale Male and his Mate often do sit near each other  for a few minutes after copulation.  But ordinarily they sit with with their fronts in opposite directions.  My thought has always been it is an automatic defensive stance of pairs...just in case.

I give you that there isn't a lot of space on that light fixture to be further apart and sitting on it in opposite directions might mean someone wouldn't have much of a place to grip but still.  Perhaps the fact that the roof is protecting their backs to some extent makes a difference as well.

Ah, look carefully at where they are looking.

Intead of looking toward their open sides for possible intruders or other trouble, they are looking across their mate's body.  Therefore not neglecting to keep an eye on the area right in front of them from a possible frontal assault.

I do love Red-tailed Hawks!

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Stay tuned! More on the Indian Ford Bald Eagles tomorrow.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

COPULATION! Pale Male and Octavia Do It, The Albany Eagle Nest, and the Pond That Never Ever Freezes

Click to enlargePhoto

Pale Male and Octavia copulate on one of the very handy for the purpose light fixtures on the Carlyle Hotel.  

And it isn't even  Valentines Day yet.

The games afoot on Fifth Avenue!  

Fingers crossed for a glorious season.

The Search for the Albany Bald Eagle's Nest.

According to the Wisconsin DNR Bald Eagle Map,  there are supposedly two Eagles nests in Green County.  

(There are very likely more Eagle nests than two but no one has told the DNR that as the local farmers aren't at all partial to the DNR showing up on their land and in their minds or possibly in truth bossing them around.)

Well the other day I got a tip that there was an Eagle's nest outside the small town of Albany near the water treatment plant.  

Alright!  I could contact the DNR as to finding it but what if the DNR didn't know about it yet?  The farmer whose land it was on, would be very unhappy with me and I wouldn't be getting within a mile of it.

I needed some genealogy introductions and there is no substitute for a local farm boy's expertise in these things.  

I talked to my friend Mike Albright, who has helped me through this sticky wicket before.  He grew up on a farm not that far from Albany and his parents still live there.  

Mike agreed to drive around with me today to try spotting the nest and if we saw it, he'd  do the necessary genealogy conversations with the farmers.

Sure enough, without leaves to obscure the nest, there it was way, way, way over there near the river, across a very large field, was the iconic cup shaped nest.  Any public roads to get us closer?  

Of course not, we looked. 
Now perhaps it doesn't look all that far away in the photo but this picture was taken with a zoom lens.  Trust me it is a lengthy trek from the road.  If one can get permission to trek it that is.

Typically, it isn't easy to actually figure out who owns any particular chunk of property so we drive around scrutinizing  mailboxes looking for names that might have some connection to people Mike knows.

We turn into a long driveway and head up toward the barn in which a man dressed for the weather is just carrying a large bucket full of something through the door.  Mike gets out and waits.

One can't just walk up to the barn and call out. Nope. One waits. 

Eventually the man comes out of the barn with a now empty bucket.  Mike waits for him to walk up to him.  He then says who he is and suggests he might know his father.  They chat.  Turns out the man not only knows Mike's father he also buys hay from Mike's brother.  Excellent.  He's been placed.  Smiles all round.

Then comes the explanation about how we saw this Eagle nest, we'd like to take pictures of it,  and did he happen to know who owned  the land over there by the river?

Hay Bob, what he's called around the Albright dinner table as Bob is a common name and this Bob does buy hay from brother Ron, certainly does know who owns that land.  Take that road, go round this way, can't miss it.

Sure do thank you.  We motor off.

It's about an hour to sunset and a flock of geese flying with purpose passes over us.  My mind goes click.  There is water here somewhere.

Now keep in mind the temperature has been hovering around zero or below for like forever around here and every body of water is frozen solid unless it is at the foot of dam or is very fast river.  Hmmm.

We follow Hay Bob's directions and turn into another farm yard.  It is time for chores so this farmer too is making his way toward the barn.  Mike gets out.  The genealogy conversation ensues.  I wait in the car.  

They chat.  I look around.  

Wait just a minute there is a pond across the road and it is definitely not frozen or under a couple feet of snow like everything else.  

I KNEW IT.  I knew there had to be open water the geese where heading for at this time of day.

The guys chat.  I sit some more. 

More Geese come cruising in and land in the pond. 

Mike and the latest farmer talk about Hay Bob, brother Ron, Mike's dad, and the eagles.

Turns out the farmer says one of the Eagles got a goose yesterday.  Geez.  That must have been some tussle, an Eagle taking a goose.


Lots of them and the farmer tells Mike we can use his lane, a dirt road currently under loads of snow that bisects his field and heads right for the Eagle's nest.

Mike says, thanks so much but when we come we'll just pull off the road and walk in.  Would hate to get stuck and mess up your road.  

We get more points.  I look at the distance, the depth of snow, and the amount of camera equipment.  It will be a trek without question but worth it.

The light is beginning to fade.  More geese into that mysterious unfrozen pond across the road.  It must have a monster spring under it.

I just have to ask.  Why isn't the pond frozen?  Is there a spring?

Big smile.  Indeed there is and the pond has never frozen within living memory.

How cool is that?  One never knows what marvels might await once one steps outside the door.

Mike gets in the car.  I ask, so what's the farmer's name?

He didn't give it so I didn't ask.

Really?  Must be another rule.

I stop, once on the road again, for a few more pictures of the nest.  It is far far away.

Once I get home, I load the pictures onto the computer and crop the nest closer.
Look very closely at the left top edge of the nest.  I do believe there might be an eagle head resting on the rim of the nest.  And there appears to be the slightest touch of yellow, the only bit of yellow in the photo, where the beak would be.

Is it possible that Mama Eagle is already sitting the nest?


Donegal Browne

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

More Indian Ford Eagles and Terribly Sad Whooping Crane News

3:54:55 PM Indian Ford on the Rock River nearest tree to the dam.  I  think this is the female of the Bald Eagle pair who's nesting territory includes this area.  She appears to be watching something on the far shore of the curve in the river about a quarter mile away.

3:59:55PM  The male of the pair is also not watching the water for fish.  He is looking in the opposite direction, conceivably where the female is looking.
 4:03:12PM  For several minutes the female has been staring at me.  Then a passer-by talks to me
4:06:32PM  Unfortunately we chat for three and a quarter minutes and by that time there are THREE eagles at the bend in the river and I'm no longer sure who is whom?

4:06:37PM  Three (the new arrival) lands and beak goes straight up and One (the eagle I'd been watching originally) droops wings.  Two looks on.  At this point I wonder if the eagle by the dam and the eagle at the bend are actually the mated pair I was told they were.
4:06:39PM  Two seconds later two beaks in the air.

4:06:45PM  Six seconds later.  Three beaks up.  Looking skyward?
 4:06:47PM Two seconds later.

4:06:58PM  Center eagle appears to be calling. And continues until 4:07:00

 4:07:07PM Three eagles.  A car pulls up and an older gentleman wants to know what is going on. 

4:07:31PM  Twenty four seconds later when I get back to the camera?  You guessed it.  They've done it to me again. We're back to one and I've no idea where the other two went.

4:07:34PM  Our little buddy turns and may be checking on me...or not.


 4:16:29PM He's still there. 
4:19:27PM  Guess who's back and I didn't see him come?  Okay, I take it back.  Eagles don't always look like they are scowling.  This one appears to be smirking.
 4:19:32PM  Back to fishing. 

4:19:36PM  She calls. I look over  to try and see what she is vocalizing about.  Note her back is still toward me.

4:20:12PM  Seeing nothing I look back at her and guess what?  She's switched positions on me.  Talons now forward.  I missed the switch.
4:20:14PM  If that isn't a smirk it is certainly a self satisfied expression.
4:22:41PM  It is now minus 5, and I can no longer feel any of my appendages so time to pack it in.  I'm sure eagle isn't the least disappointed to see me go.  And I'm also sure whichever squirrel made the dray to the eagle's left won't be terribly disappointed when she goes for the day.

Heart breaking news concerning the Whooping Cranes,  just in from Robin of Illinois...
NEW ORLEANS - Someone shot a pair of endangered whooping cranes that had been building practice nests in southwest Louisiana, killing the female and seriously injuring the male, state wildlife officials said Friday.
They were the only birds that had formed a mating bond last year, though they were too young to produce eggs, said Robert Love of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"They were some of our older birds and our best chance for having a more successful nest this year," said Love, the coastal and nongame resources division administrator.
"It's just sickening," he said.
Whooping cranes are among the world's largest and rarest birds, with only about 600 alive today - all descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s. They are protected under state and federal laws.
The male is from the first group of whooping cranes released in Louisiana in 2011, and the female was from the second group, released later that year, said Adam Einck, spokesman for the department's enforcement division.
In all, 50 cranes have been banded, tagged with radio transmitters and released in an attempt to create a flock like those that once lived in southwest Louisiana. Thirty-two are still alive.
Out of the first 10 released, the male is the only one to survive.
It is expected to live but wildlife agents don't know if it will be able to fly, Einck said. "One of its wings was pretty badly damaged from the shot," he said.
Einck said the birds were hit with birdshot, apparently on Thursday. They were found Friday near Roanoke in Jefferson Davis Parish.
Louisiana's goose season is still open and a landowner had reported earlier in the week that the cranes were "hanging about" with a large flock of snow geese, Love said. But, he said, the shooting couldn't have been a mistake: "There's no mistaking a snow goose for a whooping crane."
An adult whooping crane stands nearly 5 feet tall from red cap to gray-black feet and has a long, slender bill and a wingspan of more than seven feet. Snow geese have short bills, are all white, and are much shorter and lower to the ground.
The injured male crane was being taken about 100 miles to the Louisiana State University veterinary school in Baton Rouge. It was expected to arrive Saturday morning, veterinary school spokeswoman Ginger Guttner said.
Wildlife and fisheries officials offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to whoever shot the birds.
A $15,000 reward failed to bring any arrests after a 3-year-old female - another member of the first group released - was shot and killed last April, Einck said. Two other birds from that group were shot in October 2011 by teenagers in Jefferson Davis Parish. Since then, the department started education programs in southwest Louisiana about whooping cranes and the attempt to build a permanent flock.