Little Adventures: Bird Nerd Edition

At the beginning of April, I decided to visit the eagles on the river. I had heard that they were back, had added to the nest, and had at least two eaglets. However when I arrived the male was on the nest and no fuzzy baby heads were visible. I amused myself watching the variety of birds arriving at the suet cake some avid birder had placed by the viewing site.

april13

mockingbird, cardinal, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker (I think)

In addition to the suet cake, the birders added a sealed envelope and notebook for people to add dated entries about the eagles. Pretty cool. After standing around for a while listening to the bird gossipseriously, this is how I learn now– the male eagle started screaming. Mom eagle came back empty-taloned, and then they both screamed about it for a bit. Nature is amazing.

April20192

Part of the gossip I picked up was about the owlet in the cemetery.

Bird Woman who showed up with three kids: “I’m taking the kids to see the owlets next.”

Alpha Bird Woman (she is so the one in charge and her camera is massive):”You know it’s branching.”

I recently learned that “branching” is when fledglings take adventures outside the nest. That determined my next stop for the day!

Out of the nest! Boom! At one point a car drove by and his/her little “horns perked up.

DSCF4096

Look at the floofers on this dude!

DSCF4086a*** I started writing this on April 30 and it’s now June 5. Queen of procrastination! The “eaglets” have now filled out to their juvenile feathers and I need to visit before they leave! I think my master plan with this post was to add in two April adventures. Here goes!

Two weeks later, I took off on an early morning whim to re-visit the eagles. Miraculously, I was the only person in the tiny parking lot! Just me and some eagles.

April20193

Me, some eagles, and this downy woodpecker who did not care that I was three feet away.

April20194

I wasn’t alone for long and my best shot showed at least one fuzzy head popping up.

DSCF4147a

Again on impulse, I decided to travel from there across town to another nesting site that I had seen a number of posts about: Pickerington Ponds. Given my current location, I was only 25 minutes away instead of the regular 40.

This park is a cluster of ponds and a bird mecca. I actually saw one of the eagles there land in a field as I drove towards the park entrance.

April20195

Swallows…I think, a red winged blackbird, cormorants and a Canada goose

My first stop yielded lots of small birds, a couple who had no idea where the eagle nest was, and a terrifyingly long water snake.

DSCF4162

I was more successful at the next pond. This nest has… probably HAD at this point… 3 eaglets.

April20197

Fortunately, it was beautiful breezy day and I spotted a fellow bird nerd in the form of  a tiny woman with binoculars and a mission. Not being familiar with the park, I trailed her around the pond to a prime viewing spot for the eagle nest. I am terrified and too paranoid to go into parks alone (Thanks, MomBert?). You’ll never find me hiking by myself; and if you do find me, it’s probably because you are the horribly violent, assault minded creature that I fear lurks on lonely paths. Even being alone on what was an open, sunny,  but isolated path would not have happened had it not been for my impromptu adventure buddy.

We chatted about the eagles and our various sightings. I shared my borrowed giant “moonoculars” with her,  and she gave me some tips on focusing. Another traveler stopped to talk to us about the eagles and said that he had just passed a giant turtle on the path. I asked what kind it was and he said he didn’t get close enough. I try not to roll my eyes and sigh at people I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure turtles are known for being SLOW.

Me: “Did it look like a dinosaur that wanted to eat you?”

He still didn’t know. From their size and slitted eyes to huge claws and spiked tails, I feel like snapping turtles are really easy to identify. Fuck it. I announced that I was off to see a giant turtle!

April20196

It’s a leftover dinosaur! It was about 18 x 15 inches not counting tail length.

When I looked back, Adventure Buddy was behind me on the path. Based on the guy’s directions it took longer to find the turtle than I thought it would, but finally there it was by the path. We both admired it and talked to it about its turtle life choices: “Why are you so far out from mud and water? Do you need a hug? What’s going on with your left eye? If I hugged you and carried you to the pond, would you promise not to bite my fingers off?

Finally, I asked the really big question: “Have we been taking pictures of a dead turtle?”

The turtle had not visibly moved, blinked, or hissed, and I noticed that there were ants walking in its neck folds. This seemed bad.

Adventure Buddy offered to touch it and we both stepped back like we had found an exploding turtle. She tentatively tapped the turtle booty with the very tip of her tennis shoe, and the turtle immediately rose up about an inch and then went back to its position.

Relieved that we had not been talking to a dead turtle, we backtracked to the eagle nest, spotted an osprey in flight, and totally forgot to tell the park ranger we met about the turtle. Bird brains. Ugh.

Going by units of animal measurement, that was a four eagle one giant turtle day which is a very good day!

 

Eagle Update: Fuzzy Gray Heads

Last Friday after school, I decided to go check in with the local eagles. As a colleague had suggested, leaf buds were coming out promising to obscure future views to the nest.

When I arrived, one adult was on the nest, one was down the river a few trees. At the right side of the nest I could just see movement. Binoculars confirmed two fuzzy gray heads bopping around waiting for dinner.

aDSCF2762

Shortly after I got there, the parent on the tree took off and made huge, graceful swoops over the parking lot and the empty lot across the road, flying out of sight presumably to pick up a to-go order.

IMG_5621

The parking lot dwellers went into a frenzy of battery and lens changes for their massive cameras. This is my version of penis envy:”Did you see the size of the lens on that guy? Rowr!” They were really excited because one of the eagles had unsuccessfully tried to take down a Canada goose earlier in the day within their camera range.

IMG_5622

Fish, it’s what’s for dinner. Mostly I know it was a fish because the giant camera people were getting pictures of the fish’s nose hair (if that was a thing) and squealing about it. I just listened intently and documented what I could with my average sized camera.

Hey, baby, it’s not the size. It’s how you use it. (FYI, perverts, this is a lie.)

IMG_5623

With dinner served, the fuzzy gray heads were back demanding food and attention. I felt like a celebrity seeking paparazzo.

 

cDSCF2807

How Cool Was My Day?!

Every time I visit MomBert, I’m jealous of her bird population. Yes, as this blog testifies I have a decent level of avian traffic in my yard. However MomBert has the high traffic patterns and the variety!

She has blue jays! Blue jays are a fairly common bird, but they don’t visit my yard much. I’ll hear them in the neighborhood, and see them across the street, but they rarely stop by.

DSCF2590

She gets lots of titmouses, nuthatches, and woodpeckers who like her wooded back yard border. Again, common birds, but my population seems to be darling chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and finches.

Even her doves seem fancier than mine. Look at the blue eye shadow on this one. It was blending into the rocks so well that it startled me.

DSCF2587

One of her favorite visitors is this towhee who won’t pose because it constantly hops and scratches at everything looking for food.

DSCF2574

So, yea, I was a bit jelly of her birds, her deer herd, and her foxen when I left to go look for sexy salamanders.

But…

I HAVE BALD EAGLES!!

Well, they’re not in my yard where smaller raptors have landed, but they were only a 10 minute drive away.

A week ago, a friend posted her visit to view the eagles. They have created a huge nest at a relatively easy viewing spot on the Scioto River. I was determined to make this part of my weekend activities.

The birds and nest are so big that I easily spotted their silhouettes as I drove by the first time. One turn around later, I was playing Frogger to join other people staring across the river.

I could hear the eagles vocalizing from across the river. These were high pitched chirping cries. For some reason my brain wanted manly, majestic roars. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because they’re so big.DSCF2619a

Conversation with the other birdwatchers revealed that both birds were on the nest because a predator had been in the area. Allegedly there were three eaglets to guard in the nest, and we were all standing in the parking lot of a stranger’s home, a river access point or a small business. No one was sure.

DSCF2627

When it comes to nature, I am always torn between the “be in the moment” dictum and the act of documentation. I’m compelled to document because what I’m seeing is strange, beautiful, unusual, and is usually filling me with a sense of amazement that I get to see and document this thing! I feel like I was in the moment as I happily watched eagles through my lens. Part of being compelled to document, is being compelled to share because I want other people to understand how cool and interesting the natural world can be. I don’t know if the world would be a little nicer if we were all just a smidgen more in-tune with the plants and animals around us. Dirty hippie rant over.

While I watched, one of the birds left the nest and took a soaring path down the river to land in another big tree. “He just had to get out of the house for a minute, “said the guy standing beside me. I walked back to my car smiling, excited to closely exam my photos, and urge my friends to visit the spot. For once this week, it felt like real spring with the sun shining as I drove towards home, and a bald eagle circled above me on his way back to the nest.

DSCF2635a

Updated: I went back the next day. The little lady was home alone, and nestled in. After a while she stood and BOOM! in swooped Big Daddy! He had an unidentified something clutched in his talons. I might have been screaming, “It’s Daddy!” Oh, issues. He dropped off his delivery and then removed himself to another tree.

I did some more screaming when I found out that I actually got this photo.

DSCF2664a