Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Thanksgiving Birding Adventure

Feathers from the scene of the crime:
Probably from a Northern Shoveler 
Thanksgiving morning Jacob and I went out to our favorite birding spot with the dogs, and were treated to a spectacular sighting of several uncommon and fantastic birds.  We usually make a clockwise trip around the ponds as we scan for ducks and  songbirds, but Thursday morning we decided to walk counter-clockwise.  What a lucky choice because about 1/3 the way around the pond, we spotted a Bald Eagle.  I made some silly guesses to its identity because I didn't trust my eyes, but I was soon corrected.  We noted the Eagle's size, and that it was probably 3 or 4 years old because it had a white head, but the tail was still brown.  Juvenile Bald Eagles are blotchy blown and usually get their adult colors by age four.  As we watched the Eagle sitting on a  telephone pole, it swooped down to the pond, snatched a duck, and returned to the perch where it proceeded to pluck the duck's feathers.  We couldn't believe what happened, the strangest thing for me was the quietness and quickness of the attack.  There was no splashing, loud quacking, or other  hysterical sounds; I think the duck was asleep and never saw the Eagle.  Other birds did notice the hunter including an Osprey and a Red-tailed Hawk.  First, the Osprey came by and started dive bombing the Bald Eagle.  Since both birds are usually fish eaters, I guess the Osprey didn't like having an Eagle around.  The size of the two birds was like a hawk (4' wingspan) and a crow (3' wingspan) instead of an eagle (8' wing span) and an osprey (6' wing span)!  When the Eagle moved down a few poles with its meal, a Red-tailed Hawk came to investigate.  It didn't bother the Eagle, but went to the first telephone pole to peck at the duck blood and bits.  Wow! And Ben Franklin wanted to make the Turkey the national bird. 

Doodles of our morning sightings, regrettable we forgot the camera

We were happy with the amazing Bald Eagle show, but there's more!  We also got to see a Common Goldeneye, a duck we see about once per year, two beautiful Northern Pintails, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, my first TX sighting and a bird I missed on two previous birding trips.  I should also mention the normal species that keep us returning: Northern Shovelers (hundreds), Green-wing Teal, Ruddy Ducks, American Coot, Great-blue Herons, Great Egret, Least Sandpipers, Eared Grebes  Ring-necked Duck, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Crested Caracara, Marsh Hawks, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Eastern Phoebes, and more.  We are so thankful!

Northern Shovelers- March 2012