Regal Eagle at the Deli

Sometimes when I drive by this tree at the side of the estuary, it is loaded with bald eagles, decorating it like so many Christmas tree ornaments.

Today there was only one eagle — an immature one at that. The rest were busy foraging below the tree  and up the river mouth at the Regal Eagle Deli. The last putrefied chum salmon lie like wet paper towels on the banks, exposed by the dropping tide.

Perhaps this one had eaten his fill and couldn’t stomach one more mouthful of rotten fish.

“Oh rats!” he says. “Another bird watcher.”

“I’ll give her my Exorcist pose – body facing one way, head looking the other. That’ll confuse her so she won’t know which is front or back.”



“Now, where was I? Oh yeah … urp … trying to digest that disgusting fermenting fish.”

Regal eagle looks for food, 

Fish again? Not in the mood.

Chilly air, he shivers high

In the tree so he can spy

Rotten fish washed up below.

Better eat in case of snow.

Leaner times around the bend,

Need to eat or life could end.

Though he’d like fish still alive

Choosy eagles don’t survive.

Sandhill Cranes – Predator’s Choice

It’s getting cold up in Saskatchewan, Canada. The sandhill cranes are on the move, by the hundreds, most likely by the thousands. I saw several huge flocks of them fly south over Montana yesterday, probably on their way to New Mexico, one of several places where they may overwinter.

dscn7081Sandhill cranes, when they’re not migrating, spend most of their time on the ground, eating mostly vegetation, but Wiki says they also feed on berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles, and amphibians.

They are in constant danger of being predated upon. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, cougar, and lynx are only a few of their most obvious predators but they are also in danger from ravens, hawks, owls, and eagles. It’s tough being a sandhill crane.

In the spring when they do their mating dance, they are beautiful to watch. I was lucky enough to have seen this firsthand in the Queen Charlotte Islands but at the time I had no camera with me.
dscn7088Since it is hard to see what they look like, when you can only see them silhouetted against the sky, I borrowed a picture from Wikipedia to show their colours. They are large birds with a height of from 2 ft. 7 in. to 4 ft. If you want to know their wingspan, just spread your arms as far apart as you can and you’d be pretty close.sandhill-crane

I made a very short (6 seconds) video clip as they flew over me. It’s not great footage but if you turn up the sound you can hear the distinctive call of the sandhill cranes.

 

Is it Spring Yet?

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The sun was out today and it almost seemed as if spring might come someday. The yard was filled with birds I hadn’t seen for a long while. Where had they come from so suddenly? They weren’t here yesterday. It’s still cold up north. Could it be a mistake?

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And yet these robins were here in droves, pecking at any underground bugs that might be surfacing in the sun-warmed grass. Those that couldn’t find enough bugs flew to the holly trees for their berries. Can you find six robins in this photo? It’s only a small sample patch of the whole yard.

It was glorious to feel the “warmish” rays of the winter sun, and to hear the birds sing as if it really were spring. I only hope they aren’t in for an ugly surprise. It has happened before that these happy birds arrive too soon and are overtaken by a sudden dip in temperature and then a snowfall – deadly because it covers all the food sources. One year, the early robins lay dead on the roads, in people’s yards, and in the snowbanks. The cotoneaster shrubs, like the holly and mountain ash, were stripped of their icy red berries – all in vain. The birds needed more than frozen berries to keep them alive.

I hope that this time, the birds are right to arrive early and the weather is going to  warm up gradually. Robins are early nesters; as I remember it, I’ve seen freshly hatched robins’ eggs near the end of March.

Now I have a challenge for you. Can you identify three kinds of birds in the photo below? You may have to click on it and enlarge it a bit, but let’s see if you know your birds. They’re nothing exotic, even though today they seemed to be something very special. After all, it’s only early January.

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Leave a comment with your thoughts and guesses. I always like to hear from you. Also, please visit my webpage when you have a minute. http://anneli-purchase.com

I’m aware that many parts of Canada and the States are under a layer of snow as I write this. I don’t mean to rub your nose in our relatively good weather, but rather I want to show you that spring is just around the corner … just beyond that last snowbank.