wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Giant Cedars

Do you see a tiny dark creature at the base of one of the forest giants? It’s Emma the Explorer.

Look at me, Anneli. I’m at the foot of the Empire State Tree. I can’t climb, and there’s no elevator. It sure looks huge from where I am. Click to make the picture bigger and maybe you’ll see me. I’m black and have a white nose.

Giant cedars standing tall,
Many here have yet to fall,
Others tumbled to the lake,
Fell so hard the earth did shake.

Still they keep their feet on shore,
Though they won't grow anymore,
Flooding waters soaked their boots,
And by force they lost their roots.

What these giant trees have seen,
Since they first began to lean,
Has a bear once scratched his hide,
On the cedar's sunny side?

Has a buck his antlers rubbed,
Losing velvet as he scrubbed?
Did an eagle perched aloft,
Make his nest there, downy soft?

Cedars lying in the lake,
Tangle trout that lures do take,
Lucky fish will break the line,
Swim away and feel just fine.

Silent sentinels await,
And one day they'll meet their fate,
Younger trees will then stand guard,
While the old ones fall down hard.

But the cycle carries on,
Wood in water will be gone,
Many seasons come and go,
And the young have room to grow. 


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Leftovers?

Same tree. Different bird. Same watchful eyes.

This is a good perch. I see this from my window as I look out towards the bay. I can’t resist trying to get a photo, even though it’s quite far away. I zoom in and try not to shake the camera as I press the shutter. It’s not perfect, but he (or she) is recognizable.  He’s got a great view of the beach and any activity that may signal food.

“Any leftovers?” he asks.

The herring fishery is as good as over, most boats having caught their allowed quota, but the feast for the scavengers is just beginning. Dead herring litter the beaches here and there, and strands of kelp and other seaweed have skeins of herring roe stuck to them. It all makes a tasty and healthy snack for seagulls and eagles.

I thought I’d try some of the herring myself. A friend working on a seiner gave us a few herring mainly for bait, since it isn’t the ideal food fishery time. The fatter herring are fished for food in November. But since these were so fresh, I fried a few fillets in the pan. They have a lot of little bones, but it’s so worth it to pick them out as you eat. They were delicious.

Of course they had to be cleaned up a bit first.

I feel a bit guilty about eating them. See how they are looking at me with reproach?


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Herring Provides for All

The seiners wait in the harbour for the signal that the herring are fat enough, with a high enough roe count, to allow the roe herring fishery to proceed.

Rafts of sea lions are waiting too. They will take advantage of the herring being “rounded up” in the purse seines of the big boats. Many herring “escape,” right into the waiting jaws of these huge mammals.

Some of them like the fishy smell coming from small power boats and are trying to investigate up close.

Seagulls wheel around the seiners trying to grab any herring that swims too close to the surface.

This immature eagle is about to find out that the beach will be full of bounty as roe and herring and bycatch float ashore. These foods provide much-needed calories for the eagles especially at their nesting time, which happens very soon after the herring fishery. Healthy eagles will have healthy chicks.

And let’s not forget that as much as we scoff at seagulls and their shrieking habits, they are the janitors of the beaches, cleaning up every bit of mess.

Once the carnage has been cleaned up, the animals have to scrounge what food they can until next year’s feast.


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Bald Eagles

I saw an eagle land in a tree below my house, so I went out onto the deck to take its picture.

Then I zoomed in on it and got a close up of it, but had no place to steady the camera and just took my chances.

In a second closeup, I saw that he had his beak open and I could see its tongue, but I see that the photo is quite small on the blog, so if you want to see the eagle’s tongue, you’ll have to click on the photo to make it bigger. Even so, it will be hard to see.

These birds are much bigger than they look. If you had one sitting beside you with its wings spread out, tip to tip those wings could span 8 feet. The bird might weigh about 14 lbs., the size of a small turkey. 

Anyone walking a small dog or worse yet, letting it run around in their backyard in eagle territory, had better watch out for it. They make a nice snack. Although eagles are not water birds, they will do what they have to do to procure food. I have seen an eagle with a loon in its beak, dragging it across the surface of the water as the eagle swims with one wing paddling like a lifeguard saving a drowning person, until it got to shore where it cold devour the bird. I have seen it do the same after swooping down to pick up a coho salmon just below the surface of the water. They are incredibly strong birds.

At this time of year, the herring come close to shore to spawn. This means a bounty of food for the eagles. You can see these birds showing up in the tall trees near the beaches in greater numbers to await the arrival of the herring. 

Eagles are not totally scavengers, but they are like a cleanup crew of a different kind. They are opportunists and will eat what is already dead, but they pick off sick or injured animals, whether they be land- or sea-birds, small mammals, or fish.  A crippled duck won’t suffer long with eagles around.

This is why you will often see eagles high up in a tree. They observe a large area, watching for stragglers in a flock of birds, or any weakness in animals small enough for them to pick up.

 

This raccoon may have been sick, injured, or dead, and became an eagle’s meal.

“Hmm…. There must be a little morsel left.”

 

“He’s messed up my nice white head feathers, but it’s worth it. What’s a bit of blood when you can fill your boots like this?”

“Just a few tidbits left. I hope I can still fly up into that tree with my stomach so full.”

 

Once when I was playing with Ruby, our late springer spaniel (then a small puppy), in the backyard, two eagles had been sitting unnoticed by me, in a nearby fir tree. They swooped down low across the yard, heading for tiny Ruby. I ran for Ruby and spread out my arms to provide an “umbrella” over her, and the eagles lifted up like two jets making an aborted landing. If I hadn’t been out there with her, she would have been eagle food that day.

 

So take care if you live in eagle country and have small dogs or cats. 

 


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Beach Walk

After months of wind and rain, followed by at least a week of snowy blasts, the sun let us know that it’s still up there. It lit up the white hills and said to us, “Come out, come out. I’ll warm your back as you walk on the beach.”

The Captain and I took Emma to the beach on the east side of the spit, where the morning sun was warmer and much of the snow was gone.

Emma loved it, but then she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. “Whoah!” she said. “WHAT is that large woman doing out there in this icy water?”

She wasn’t swimming much — more like bobbing in the waves. She didn’t seem to mind the cold.

To her right, was a very relaxed sea lion head. I looked back at the woman and saw that what I thought was a head,  was really the sea lion’s flipper.

A whole group of them lay on their backs, enjoying the morning sun. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had a breakfast of kippers. It’s that time when the herring come in close to the beaches to spawn. That makes the sea lions happy, as well as the eagles and sea gulls, all of whom love to eat the herring spawn and herring bodies that wash up on the beach for a wonderful smorgasbord.

Everybody (except the herring) is happy these days.

Don’t forget to visit my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/02/12/the-trap/

Also, please visit my website to find out more about my books and my copy-editing.  http://www.anneli-purchase.com/


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Great Blue Heron

Blue herons don’t have a dark patch on their shoulders, but this one does. I think something (like an eagle) tried to grab him and he got away. Not unscathed, but he’s alive.

I once saw a heron circle around and around, going higher and higher, until he was nearly out of my sight. In the airspace below him, an eagle was doing his best to climb higher as well, to get at the heron. I think herons must have lighter bones and probably a lighter body in proportion to the wings. They can outdistance eagles  and stay very high up in the air until the danger has passed.

I suspect that this one was caught napping and was attacked at ground level. Somehow he managed to escape the eagle’s clutches, and he lived to tell about it.


23 Comments

Under the Double Eagle

I was looking for a glimpse of a great blue heron who once visited this marshy area. This is him about three years ago.

No luck. Just a lot of bullrushes and mist.

Two eagles about half a mile away, reminded me of a poster I saw in the 70s, of two vultures sitting in a snag, looking down at the ground, waiting for something to die.

The caption said, “Patience, my ass! I’m gonna kill something.”

But they were definitely eagles, not vultures.  I zoomed in and tried for a shot but it was really far away. Still, I could see that the smaller one was a mature bird while the bigger one was not. They don’t generally get the white feathers on their head until they are in their fifth year. Since the female birds are usually larger than the males, I thought this might be a case of a father and daughter having a conversation.

 

My daughter you’re a big girl now,

No boyfriends will I yet allow,

But soon you will be old enough,

Make sure the man you choose is tough.

 

The world out there can be quite harsh,

But keep your eyes upon that marsh,

A crippled bird might try to hide

Behind the rushes at the side.

 

Be careful when you swoop to kill,

Stay safe so you can eat your fill,

Don’t let the rushes tangle you

And hurt your wings, or that you’ll rue.

 

I see the heron stalking frogs,

Just at the back behind the logs.

When you fly down he’ll get a scare

And hurry to get out of there.

 

He knows that we could tear him up,

And then on heron we could sup,

But he’s a watchful kind of guy,

And he can soar up very high.

 

A heron circles in the sky

Much higher than we eagles fly,

Except for that, he’d be our meal,

You must forget him, no big deal.

 

For now we’ll take the sickly duck

That’s hiding in that swampy muck,

And we’ll be doing him a favour

As we both enjoy his flavour.

 


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Eager Eaglet Looking for Dinner

You might say, “The eagle has landed.” This one came down for a visit in my back yard.

 

Young and eager,

Food is meagre,

Desperation makes him brave.

 

Meals are sparing

Without herring,

Times of plenty he does crave.

 

Taking chances,

Searching glances

May result in other fare.

 

Tiny doggies,

Little froggies,

He’ll eat either, doesn’t care.

[No eagles allowed inside the yard.]

Here comes Emma,

Oh dilemma,

So ferocious she can sound.

 

Eaglet leaving

Or be grieving,

Emma’s a tenacious hound.

 

Snobby puppy

Getting “uppy,”

“Don’t go calling me a hound.

 

I’m a spaniel,

Read the manual,

Guard the neighbourhood around.”

[Hi, I’m Tiny Tony!]

“He might set

His hooks in yet,

If he grabbed Tony, I would cry.

 

Did you see

The eagle flee

Because I barked and made him fly?”

 

[Don’t worry, Tony. I’ll take care of you.]

 


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Bird’s Eye View

I looked out at the sunny (cold) day this morning. Someone else was also looking. Do you see him at the top of the fir tree? It’s a good place to spot potential targets for food — maybe a crippled duck, or some small creature in a field, or even a  victim of overnight road kill.

I stepped out onto the deck and took about 30 wiggly photos. I leaned against a deck post and tried 20 more. Finally I managed to get a photo that was recognizable, if not sharp. The camera has a 43X zoom so this is the best it can do without a tri-pod. I often wish for a BIG telescopic lens but then there is the weight to consider. Also, these subjects don’t often hang around long enough for me to get set up.

But we can see his “eagle eye” and the sharp tearing beak. It must be breezy up there, judging by his feathers being ruffled on the windward side.

It is a lean time of year for the eagles. They work hard to find some unsuspecting, usually sick or starving, bird to feed on. But soon, the herring will be coming close to the beach to spawn, and then the eagles will be “living off the fat of the land” (and sea).


59 Comments

Eat or be Eaten

A few days ago when the snow came down hard and heavy, I felt sorry for the birds, as I always do when the weather makes their lives hard to bear. But I had forgotten that not only do some birds — the weak, the injured, and the unlucky — have a hard enough time finding food, but they have to beware of becoming food for other birds.

The forested patches near our house are home to many bald eagles. Because the ocean is nearby, it is ideal for them, especially now as herring time draws near.  But until the herring fishery begins, the eagles take advantage of the suffering of other bird species. They are especially fond of snatching seabirds from the water or the beaches.

Out in my backyard, under one of the firs that the eagles love to use as their dining room, I found, discarded, a wing that had been stripped of all meat. My guess is that it was from a loon, as these seem to be one of the eagle’s favourites. I have found several loon carcasses under the dining tree in the past. For the photo, I have put a pop can beside the wing to show the relative size.

In the animal world it still goes that you must “Eat or be eaten.”