Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cool bird sightings for the week...

How about something a little lighter?

This has been a banner week for me, at least in terms of bird sightings.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog long enough knows that I've got a thing (genetic predisposition? sentimental attachment?) for birds that kill other things -- specifically, mammals and other birds. I think its a guilt-free way to get my death-fix.

Anyway, there are plenty of raptors patrolling the skies over central Maryland -- spend a couple minutes outside on any given day and you're bound to see at least one vulture, which technically don't satisfy my preferences; that is, they don't kill anything. Seeing a hawk isn't particularly rare, either, assuming you're at least partially keeping an eye out for one.

However, this Sunday, while playing kickball at Stevens Forest Elementary, one of these guys descended on our game and hung around awhile to watch.

That's a broad-winged hawk. It is not uncommon to see them in our area, but the behavior of our visitor was what stood out to me. He first swooped over the field, landing on a goal post that was actually rather close to where we were playing (about 40 feet beyond first base). After looking out over the scene for a minute or so, he took off, circling low over the field and eventually landing on the grass further away from us (maybe 150 feet from third base). There, he stood and occasionally walked around for quite some time. His presence and courage were certainly welcome treats for my birthday.

The second significant bird of prey sighting happened just a few hours ago on my way to band practice in Annapolis. As I was merging from I-97 onto Route 50, I noticed a large, dark bird flying towards the highway from the right. We converged at the same point, and as I drove underneath the bird, it became clear what I was looking at:

I don't think there's any need to explain what that is.

Bald eagles are becoming more prevalent around the Chesepeake Bay, and seeing them is becoming less novel. Nevertheless, this was only the third time I've seen one, only the second time I've been close enough to recognize it without the aid of binoculars. And the other times were in dramatically more "natural" settings: once in Yellowstone (in the winter) and once in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of Maryland (here they were far away).

I don't really have anything profound to say about this other than it's great to see these truly wild creatures living so closely and comfortably with humans (there's hope for us, yet) and, in the case of the eagle, it's good to know they've recovered so dramatically since Silent Spring (there's hope for us, yet).

UPDATE: I probably should have said earlier that the pictures are not mine. I found them courtesy of Google.


David W. Keelan said...

I have never seen a Bald Eagle in the wild. Your photograph (assuming it is yours) is impressive. I am going to keep my eyes open.

Anonymous said...

My wife was out on a work-related excursion to a wildlife area in Baltimore County yesterday. They were canoeing a tributary of the bay and found a Bald Eagle sitting in it's nest. They were actually able to canoe right under it and spend some time watching it up close. It is definately encouraging to see these birds more often, considering we pushed them to the brink of extinction not too long ago. It is a great example of what we can accomplish by taking the necessary steps.

BTW - were you aware that a bald eagle nest can weigh upwards of 1,000lbs?

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear eagles are in the area, but did it occur to your wife that it might have been a bit risky to canoe and loiter under a 1,000 pound Jenga stack created by a pea-brained predator?