So, it is OK not to be working on a weekend. And with a firm date (Jan 16) now for the arrival of our new family member, we decided to make the most of this weekend and do things we might not get to do for some weeks. And one of those things was to seek out some Bald Eagles.
As foreigners, we were keen to catch a glimpse of the once-endangered and noble national bird. As occasional birdwatchers, we were hoping for a chance to see these creatures in their natural habitat. It was heartening to discover that they are flourishing at this time of year not far from where we live. They migrate south down the Mississippi fly-corridor to mate and breed in the spring and right now they can be found fishing and roosting just across the river from us.
So we set off at the crack of dawn (or so it felt) and drove to a Lock and Dam system on the Mississippi where the birds were clearly fishing amongst the gulls where the churning lock was stirring up the fish. It was impressive to watch them soaring above the trees, and through my tiny binoculars, I did manage to see one bird dive down and pick up a fish. But we didn’t really get any clear or up-close views of the birds. One happy surprise for me was a flock of pelicans that flew over us a few times at the locks – I had never seen one live, and so to see a couple of dozen flying low above was a real treat.
We made a little trek a few miles further north to a ferry crossing. By this time in the morning, most of the eagles had done their foraging for the day, and had returned to the trees to roost. En route I spied an enormous nest on the roadside, and two of the grand birds roosting nearby. When we arrived at the ferry crossing, there were another couple of eagles sitting high in the trees. They were so close and so calm, it was a real reward for an early morning start. I loved how alert and regal they looked and I am so glad that conservation efforts have made it possible for them to make such an amazing comeback.
When we lived in the UK, we were lucky enough to live in a beautiful park where the birdlife was fantastically varied. We set up a bird feeder outside the house and were visited daily by an increasing number of small-medium sized birds, including nuthatches, tits of all kinds (I think they are referred to as chickadees here) and even some very entertaining greater spotted woodpeckers. Currently we are living in a very urban setting in a University owned apartment. But I got a bird feeder for Christmas, and today we managed to rig it up outside our sunroom – so now I am hoping that some of the friendly little neighbourhood birds will come and get some sustenance outside our place soon. Something else to focus on when I am not working…