Mostly About Young Bald Eagles

A first-year eagle gets some support from a parent. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
A first-year eagle gets some support from a parent. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Earlier in the week, I took a few hours to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It wasn’t the best day to go there; it was overcast and very windy, but I still got to see some birds including couple of very smart hawks who figured out that if they sat down on stumps in the gullies along the auto tour route, they were out of the worst of the wind but could still see everything around them.  It also made getting photos of them pretty easy.

I also came across a spot where an adult Bald Eagle was sitting on one of the small “islands” in the wetland area.  It was keeping an eye on its youngster – just a year old based on its markings.  It would fly our against the strong wind, hover, swoop, and fly again and then go land by the parent.  The two would screel at one another, and then the kid would take off again.  After a few minutes a second juvenile showed up (I think it’s a dibbling) – about 2 years old – and joined the parent on the island.  Juvie #1 flew over to greet it, and then took off again.

At one point #1 tired and landed on another “island” further from the parent but closer to where I was parked.  There it was a harassed by a raven that didn’t like the eagle on ITS island.    The young eagle didn’t budge, though, and held its ground no matter how much the raven squawked at it.  I got photos and some video of their interactions.

As I was driving along the tour route, I was irritated by two things: (1) that the wind gusts were so strong they kept knocking my camera around whenever I used the long zoom lens.  I eventually figured out how to prop it against the window and the door frame to keep it steady.  And (2) I saw three or four people get out of their vehicles along the route – which is illegal on the preserve.  One person got out right next to a sign that warned you to stay in your vehicle or suffer a fine.  Jerks.  Not only do they disturb the birds, they also make me nervous… A person who can’t obey a simple sign on a one-way route is a person who’s actions you cannot predict.  So whenever I saw one of these folks get out of their vehicles, I took their photo (and a clear sot of their license plate if I could see it), and sent them to the rangers at the preserve after I got home… Ugh!

Anyway, back to the cool stuff.  Further down the auto tour road I came across Juvie #1 again.  By this time, it had caught a Coot and taken it up into a tree to eat it – battling against the strong wind while it ate.  While it was chowing down, a raven came up to take a look at its meal, and so did a hawk… and then the juvenile’s parent came by, lighting on the tree for a moment to make sure the juvenile was otherwise undisturbed.  When the parent was satisfied that the kid was okay, it flew off again.  So neat!  To get the photographs of this, I had to pull off to the side of the track, lay down across the front seat, and shoot the camera out of the passenger side window.  Hah!

I also came across a row of American White Pelicans, hunkered down on a small spit.  Many of them had the half-moon shaped crest on the end of their bills indicating that they were all in breeding mode.  They’re such big birds, it’s always a little surprising to see them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Adult and 1st-year Bald Eagle video:

Adult and two juvenile Bald Eagles video: