A Winter Day

Well, it’s not really winter, of course. But it’s about as close as we get around here. So I had to go out exploring.

First things first, there’s this guy: eagle-1

Just hanging out atop a very tall tree, in order to have an advantageous view of all that surrounds him. I believe this one is still not quite fully mature – the white head still seems a bit flecked with brown – but this brings to three the number of Bald Eagles I’ve seen at Fort Pickens in the past week or so.

Then a stroll out to the Sound, along the trail that runs beside Big Mama’s nest. I spotted several Pelicans fishing and thought I’d go out to see what was going on. This view along the shoreline shows how low the tide was.

december-shoreline

There were four Willets grazing the shallows, but they were pretty boring, so I trained my lens on the Pelis. Never did get a goods shot of one diving – which is what I was hoping for. But I did catch these two in flight.

peli-1

about-to-dive

 

As I walked back toward the car I looked up at Big Mama’s nest silhouetted against the cobalt blue sky. First I noticed how raggedy the nest itself has become, with no residents to tend it since August.

bib-mama'sn-nest

But then I took a look at the tree itself and realized that that trunk is very nearly rotted away.  I wonder how much longer it will last. Winter winds and rains bring down a lot of these dead Pine trees.

Most of these – and there are thousands of them around Fort Pickens – were killed by the overwashing of the Gulf during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. So this one has been there a long time. And Big Mama’s nest has been in this exact place for at least five or six years that I know of.

I wonder what she would do if, when she returns in early March, her old nest is gone. There are other snags nearby. But she has had command of this particular spot for quite a while, and she’s raised a lot of chicks there.

It is a particularly advantageous spot, standing as it does out in the open, in such a way as to afford a commanding view of the surrounding trees and airspace. And I’ve watched her and her mate fight off more than one would-be attacker, including other Ospreys and at least one Bald Eagle.

If it is to come down soon I just hope it happens before she returns and rebuilds. I’d hate to see that nest fall after there are eggs in it, or chicks.

I suppose we shall see …

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Back To My Favorite Place

The road to Fort Pickens has been closed for repair for about two months. But it reopened yesterday at 9 a.m., and I was there by 10:30.

No Ospreys. Not a single one. There are usually a few young males who don’t migrate, just hanging around and acting like typical teenagers. But if they’re out there they were staying well-hidden yesterday.

So … what did I see? Several beautiful Great Blue Herons like this guy. Their breeding plumage is beginning to show, just in time for them to impress the lady Great Blues. And they’re vying for the most advantageous spots where they can show off to greatest effect (or, so I imagine).

GBH-1

But the coolest part of the day was to catch not one but TWO juvenile Bald Eagles, soaring about as if they own the place.  Here’s the first one:

young-eagle

He was soaring above the bike trail, zooming back and forth as if to say “Yeah, get a good look. Aren’t I beautiful?” And he was. I caught him in this perfect eagle soar –

perfect-eagle-silhouette

and again just showing off (or so I thought). I shot 45 images of him in about 30 seconds.

And here’s another view.

eagle-1-showing-off

Then I went back to the picnic shelter at Battery Worth to have my lunch. And, as I sat there looking out at the stark landscape I’m so used to seeing ospreys in, I spotted this single bird, far away, sitting on top of a dead tree. And just as I trained my lens on it, it jumped and soared – right across my field of view and away into the trees.

another-one-

 

Their marking are clearly different, and the amount of white and brown feathers indicates their exact age. But I don’t know enough about Bald Eagles to guess how old either of these is. But I do know that they won’t  have the distinctive Bald Eagle white head and tail until they’re 4 or 5 years old.

So these two are just kids. Maybe a male and female? Maybe they’ll find each other and start an entirely new colony of  eagles out there. That would be interesting – especially if the eagles begin to compete with the Ospreys and GBHs for nesting space.

Meanwhile, I’m staying in today. After four straight days of bike riding, my old legs need a break. So I’m entertainng myself watching the new buds on my orchid begin to develop. Here are six of the dozen or so that seem to be developing.

new-bud