The Majestic Bald Eagle

Being in the right place at the right time makes a world of difference when bird watching.

Take this morning for example. Doing my morning ritual of filling the bird feeders, I saw a third year Bald Eagle soaring over the cove off our back yard. It was making passes within 50 yards of where I stood, so I headed back into the house to get my camera.

Returning to my vantage point, the Eagle was nowhere to be found. While thinking about making a homemade holster for my camera rig so it’s always handy and nearly ready to give up on the Eagle, I saw movement to my right. Coming from the narrows on the Winnegance Bridge side of the cove were a pair of adult Bald Eagles.

At first, the pair kept their distance, doing an in-flight courtship ritual. Diving and swirling around each other at a very high altitude, I watched in awe and silently hoped that they would get closer. Suddenly, the pair seemed to tumble earthward. I thought they had a collision! Just before crashing into the spruce trees on the other side of the cove, the pair split off. One came directly toward me, the other heading toward Doubling Point Lighthouse with American Crows on its heals.

It is very difficult to photograph a Bald Eagle screaming directly toward you. The focus is forever changing, even with AI focus tracking turned on. Suddenly the Eagle turned and I began firing away. In no time flat it was gone. I noticed my heart thumping in my chest. WOW!

As I went through the photos, The head on shots were awful. Should I have tried to change my angle? In doing this I risk spooking the bird. Maybe I better practice photographing birds coming head on. Most of my problem was that the cameras settings were set for a previous shoot that I did and in all the excitement, I didn’t make any changes. I did gather myself together enough to make adjustments when the Eagle turned.

I did a little research on the internet to found out what was going on with the pair. It seems that indeed they were falling toward earth on purpose:

Once attracted to a potential partner, the Bald Eagle may begin one of several elaborate courtship rituals called “cartwheeling.” In this magnificent display, the Eagles soar to dizzying heights, lock talons, and begin a breathtakingly death-defying plunge to the earth. Just moments before striking the ground, the eagles disengage and once again soar to the heavens. If the timing is not perfect, certain death awaits this pair of speeding bullets.

What a fantastic morning! Three Bald Eagles and a couple of decent photos to accompany the memories. If only that 600mm lens was a little more affordable, I might have photos of this ritual.

 

Camera: Canon 40D
Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS L
Handheld with BushHawk

All thumbnail photos are clickable to bring up a larger view. Enjoy!

Bald Eagle in Flight | Bath, Maine
Bald Eagle in Flight | Bath, Maine

 

Bald Eagle in Flight | Bath, Maine
Bald Eagle in Flight | Bath, Maine

Happy birding!

Skywatch Friday – Popham Beach

At first look, you may think these photos have nothing to do with birds. Where are the birds? Well folks, this is the view from one of my favorite late summer and early fall birding spots. Popham Beach State Park lies on the southern tip of the peninsula south of Bath, Maine.

The beach is very quiet after the tourist season ends. Sharon and I walk this beach looking for shorebirds, Bald Eagles and Osprey and we usually are not disappointed. Last September, we watched 6 Osprey feeding in the outgoing tide of the Morse River. Hovering above the water, the Osprey look for fish, and upon finding one, will dive and pick up the prey with their tallons.

The area is rich in history: Ft. Popham; Ft. St. George; Ft. Baldwin; Popham Colony which is the site of the first English colony (1607) in New England; The first ship  built by the English in the New World (The pinnace, named Virginia of Sagadahoc) was completed during the year of the Popham Colony and was sailed back across the Atlantic Ocean to England.

This is my first entry for Skywatch Friday. Enjoy!

View looking south from Popham Beach State Park - September 2008 | Click for larger view
View looking south from Popham Beach State Park - September 2008 | Click for larger view

 

View southeast from Popham Beach State Park - Seguin Island Lighthouse | Click for larger view
September 2008 - View southeast from Popham Beach State Park - Seguin Island Lighthouse | Click for larger view

 

Skywatch Friday
Skywatch Friday

Snowbound!

2-23-09  Digging out a must! | Click for a larger view
2-23-09 Digging out a must! | Click for a larger view

Unbelievable! Those were my very first words when my wife and I awoke to explosions at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. Five transformers blew, starting just to our south and finishing with the one across the road from us. The flashes from these explosions lit our room like it was daylight, even though all the blinds and curtains were pulled shut.

A major snowstorm struck Maine Sunday night into early Monday. The storm started as rain Sunday evening, but soon changed to a heavy wet snow. By the time the storm ended at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning, 13″ of very heavy and wet snow had accumulated here at home. Towards the end of the storm, the temps dropped sharply, crusting the snow and making it the consistency of wall plaster. Further inland where the temperatures were much colder than here on the coast, snow totals were upwards of 24″.

I have dealt with more than three times the thirteen inches of snow we received, but this storm had a devastating impact. The snow clung to everything… trees, power lines, signs and homes, even the trunks of trees were plastered with snow due to the high winds driving it sideways. We lost power when the transformers blew, and got power restored late this afternoon. A total of 40 hours without the conveniences that we all take for granted. 140,000 Mainers were without power during and after the storm.

2-23-09 View - West (on the ridge across the road from where we live) Bath, Maine | Click for larger view
2-23-09 View - West (on the ridge across the road from where we live) Bath, Maine | Click for larger view

Immediately after the power went out, Sharon and I got up and began preparing. I lit the fireplace, she gathered the flashlights and candles. For those of you who have a fireplace, you know how inefficient they are. Suffice to say, I slept very little the last two days, having to feed the fireplace wood every hour and a half to keep us warm and to prevent the pipes from freezing.

Once daylight arrived, I surveyed the damage. Every tree had limbs drooping to the ground and most had broken limbs. The spruces looked beautiful, but damage was widespread. The losers of this event were the birch trees. Most were bent in half with their tops touching the ground.

Birds began showing up at our feeders, but had trouble accessing them. The snow had caked on every feeder, and removing the snow from them was a chore. I had to chip at them with a screw driver to remove enough of the snow to make them usable. Shortly after returning inside, 51 American Goldfinches and 39 Pine Siskins descended on the feeders and had a feast. I am sure they appreciated my efforts.

The sounds of chainsaws and generators filled the air. Navagating on area streets and roads was difficult and dangerous. Schools and businesses were closed. Normally, 13″ of snow does not cause much of a a problem. But with this mess it was like getting a severe ice storm. Rain, then heavy wet snow which froze nearly solid as the colder air worked in. As I write this, 48 hours after the storm began, snow still clings to the trees and power lines and 39,000 Mainers are still without power.

I need some sleep as I am exhausted. I leave with you some photos of the beautiful but devastating storm.

2-23-09 Limbs sagging under the weight of heavy snow | Click for larger view
2-23-09 Limbs sagging under the weight of heavy snow | Click for larger view
2-23-09 Backyard view | Click for larger view
2-23-09 Backyard view | Click for larger view
2-23-09 View - north from the backyard | Click for larger view
2-23-09 View - north from the backyard | Click for larger view
2-23-09 Snow laden branches | Click for larger view
2-23-09 Snow laden branches | Click for larger view
2-24-09 Finally blue skies! | Click for larger view
2-24-09 Finally blue skies! | Click for larger view
2-24-09 View from Ft. Popham looking toward Cox Head | Click for larger view
2-24-09 View from Ft. Popham looking toward Cox Head | Click for larger view

 

Happy birding!

 

Snowy Day Birds

Snowy Pines | Click for larger view
Snowy Pines | Click for larger view

We awoke to another snowfall this morning, bringing our season total to just shy of 70″. Running a little behind compared to this time last year, I am sure we will make it up with a snowstorm predicted for this Sunday.

I bundled up and went out just after daybreak to clean snow from our feeders and fill them with fresh bird seed.

While walking under our maple tree, the birds that were present were spooked by what I thought was my movement. Most of the birds visiting our yard mostly tolerate me as I putter around the yard. Chickadees and Nuthatches usually land in the feeder while I am filling it.

Shrugging it off, I continued to fill the feeders. As I walked back up the hill toward the house, I saw movement in the maple tree. Not 10 feet above where I stood, sat a Red-tailed Hawk. It had no concern what-so-ever with me standing almost directly beneath it. I had no camera, and I thought if I tried to go toward the house I might spook it.

Mourning Dove | Click for larger view
Mourning Dove | Click for larger view

As I hoped that my wife might be looking out the window, I talked to the Hawk. “Mr. Hawk”, I said, “why do you have to come here and scare off the birds on such a cold morning?” The Hawk turned its head and looked at me.

“I know that you are probably hungry, but I love the birds that visit this yard. Maybe you can go on down the road and find a Starling.” The Hawk does a wing stretch, turns for a look towards the cove and flew off, all the while I can hear its mighty wings carrying  it off.

WOW! What a treat to be so close to a Raptor. And what was really exciting was that it did not seem disturbed by my presence. Being that close and hearing those wings as it took off will be a sound that I won’t soon forget.

When I returned back inside to the warmth of our home, Sharon was in the basement tending to the dryer and had no idea what had happened outside. I told her of my encounter and we came back upstairs so I could show her where the Hawk had been. Looking out the picture window, I pointed to where a Mourning Dove was perched… the exact same spot where the Hawk had been not five minutes before.

Red-breasted Nuthatch | Click for larger view
Red-breasted Nuthatch | Click for larger view

Interacting with nature is such a treat for me. When birds do not flee because of my presence, or land so close that I could touch them, it brings a smile to my face. It’s like a mutual trust between me and the birds.

I once had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird land on the rim of my glasses while I was filling a feeder with nectar. I immediately froze, thinking that I might spook the little bird. The Hummingbird then flew to the cover of the feeder and then back to my glasses. He was wanting me to get the feeder filled, which I did while he sat there. I moved ever so slowly, replaced the top and hung the feeder back up. It then flew to the feeder and had a long drink.

There are so many stories to tell, but I would like to hear from you. What is your most memorable moment with a bird or birds? You can either post about it on your site and leave a link in our comments, or drop us a comment about your experience.

As promised yesterday, I have another video. This clip shows a White-breasted Nuthatch working its way up a tree.

 

Dimension: 520×420 | Video bit rate: 1000Kbps | File Size: 16.1mb
Playback: Click Play Button | Broadband Connection Recommended
Streaming Video of White-breasted Nuthatch | ©2009 birdingmaine.com

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Today, I joined the North American Bird Phenology Program (NABPP). You can read more about it over at John Trapps’ site Birds Etcetera. Thanks for the info John!

 Happy birding!

 

American Goldfinch Video

Today, during a heavy bout of snowfall, I took some HD video of several American Goldfinches that were in our feeder. Spring can not be that far behind as these birds are beginning to molt. Notice the bright yellow feathers around the eyes.

The video is a little bright. I had to make some exposure adjustments while shooting because of the heavy snow and over-did it just a tad.

Can you identify the two species that showed up in the video that are not American Goldfinches?

Fair warning: a broadband connection is recommened to view streaming videos on this site!

 

Dimension: 520×420 | Video bit rate: 1000Kbps | File Size: 14.6mb
Playback: Click Play Button | Broadband Connection Recommended
Streaming Video of American Goldfinches | ©2009 birdingmaine.com

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

 

Later tonight, or tomorrow morning, I will post a video of a White-breasted Nuthatch who I found in a tree just outside our window.

I want to thank Larry Jordan over at The Birder’s Report for including a post of mine in I and the Bird #94. The post is: Longing for spring.

Happy birding!