They sure grow up fast, don’t they? The eagles chicks had just hatched when I headed north for a visit in December. I supposed I’d miss them completely. And I guess I did miss the eaglet stage. This ‘kid’ is a fledgling at the moment, though he didn’t do much fledging today. He and Mom stayed in the same spots the entire time I was there, turning their heads this way and that, and that’s all they did. I saw an adult fly away from the nest as I walked over to take up my position to shoot. I was happy to spot this adult so easily since she was nicely positioned against the tree, but it took me a minute to realize that that lump just below and behind her was the baby. He stayed in the shadows, and they both heard Dad calling when he landed out of sight in a tree nearby. I think I teased about how less than regal the fledgling looked the last time I was here, but I think he’s gotten that regal stare down pretty well now. What a privilege it is to be able to observe them, and they are far enough away that I don’t think we disturb them.
One of the things I thought I’d missed by being up north recently was the eagles at the nest that I have visited in the past. While I was gone I heard that they had started a new family on a new nest built to replace the one that was lost last year. That was happy news because last year’s chicks didn’t make it, And I nearly did miss it, but not quite. This years eaglet is in his awkward teenaged stage. Not a fluffy cute chick, and not yet a magnificent eagle. I arrived to find one of the parents in a nearby tree and the young one on the nest. And that’s pretty much all that was going on, so after taking quite a few identical photos I had packed up the camera to go home. That’s when the young one started flapping his wings and hopping around the nest, It looked like he was going from branch to branch, and I saw plenty of daylight under him as he hopped, so it seemed like he was serious about it. A teenager feeling his oats. Like any concerned mother would do, his mother, I assume, flew to the nest and quashed that activity. And our favorite young eagle was looking his mother in the face and turning his head from side to side looking, to me at least, as if he was trying to get back on her good side. Nor sure about her, but he made points with me.
I had heard that the eagles were now sitting eggs, and that meant that there was always going to be an eagle on the nest. So heading over there one more time became my priority on Sunday. Only it took quite a while to see an eagle. The new nest seems to be tipped away from our vantage point on the street, so you can’t see into it, but the weather was windy but perfect so I waited, and after a while I saw a head pop up for a second. And I waited some more. Then then I saw one make a circle in the sky and I was focused on the nest where I expected him to go, but he landed in a nearby tree. I heard the other one call a few times, but the new arrival sat on his branch. I began to wonder if that was all that I was going to see, but then he flew to the nest tree and I got to see the changing of the guard. As we have seen them do before they both sit on a branch and seem to have a chat for a bit, then the new eagle took over the nest, and the other one flew off to hunt. I was probably there about two hours, a lot of that time was spent crouched, squinting into the view finder, and with my finger on the button. I wanted to catch one of them in flight. Or one of them bringing in a fish for lunch. Maybe next time…
Persistence paid off. After seeing a friend’s photos I knew that the eagles we watched last year were in the process of building a new nest. Their old nest hadn’t made it through one of the storms we had last year. Watching them had been very exciting. We waited for them to lay eggs, and then watched and waited for the eggs to hatch. That’s when I joined the watchers, perfect timing, I could rely on the fact that every time I visited there was an eagle on the nest. Sometimes they were hunkered down and you had to wait for a head to pop up, but somebody was always home. We watchers were quite invested in those two little eaglets once they hatched, so when they disappeared with no explanation it was very sad. These are the same eagles, but this is a new year, and I struck out the first three times I went by the nest hoping to see them, but there they were this morning. It was my lucky day!
I told myself to go out for the sunrise. I had finished the coffee, caught up with Facebook, and there was still time to head out. I had seen stars out there when I let the dogs out, so it wasn’t overcast. But as I made my first turn I spotted the moon, big and round but very low in the sky, with wispy clouds over the face. Now I had a different plan, skipped the turn to Bayport and headed for Hammonds Creek bridge, simply because it was closer. I felt like I was racing to get there before the moment had passed. And I thought it had because I hadn’t seen the moon again, so I made the turn to Jenkin’s Creek, just a little further. And in the last stretch of road I saw the moon again, just as it sank into the low clouds. They talk about lost opportunities at work, but they are talking about sales of products, but these are the lost opportunities that drive me nuts.
The colors of the sky were pretty, but the sunrise would have been prettier at either of my other options this morning, and I was mad at myself. And then I noticed two shapes in the dead tree across the inlet. I didn’t even hurry, sure they would turn out to be vultures. It wasn’t until I moved the car across the parking lot, set up the tripod, and finally looked through the zoom lens that I saw they were eagles. I took pictures as they looked left, then right, in unison, and just as I was about to leave I thought I saw one ‘defecate’. That was the polite term that Jeff, guru of the photo group, used when he said that you must know bird behavior. They lighten the load just before they fly, he said. So I backed the zoom off a little bit to give myself some room, and off he took! I’ll be looking for that moon tomorrow…
When I left the nest, having heard the sad news about the eaglets, I went to Anclote River Park. I had been there before with my son and his family, and what I remember was that the water was red. I don’t remember the explanation. It was very odd, and it stuck in my mind. What I found this time was a lovely park, and I would think it might be yet another great spot for the sunset. I was directed there by another photographer, who told me to look to my right once I got there and I’d see the Osprey nest. He wasn’t sure if there were eggs, but as you see the Ospreys were on hand.
Then I wandered along the walkway and what I couldn’t help but notice were the pelicans. Certainly the most up close photo opportunity with them that I’ve seen so far.But still the eagles were on my mind. I saw the one in the dead tree when I first got to the nest, and the other one when I stopped on my way home. So they are still in the vicinity of the nest, a nest of very long standing. I spoke to my eagle watching friends and there is speculation that the eagles may mate again and lay more eggs this season. I hope so, at least I think I hope so. It’s hard not to get too attached.Back home the Sandhill Cranes continue to tease us. They are on the lake daily, on the old nest and also visiting the new nest they built. They don’t spend the night, or I don’t think that they do. So whether or not there will be new babies on the lake is still an unknown. I counted on the sunset for a Day 7 of the 10 day photo challenge, but it was too overcast. Sunsets are funny that way. Which left me with only one solution.
I suppose this is Zoe’s ‘before’ picture because she needs a haircut. She was gorgeous when she was young, long-legged and slim. I joked that I got her because people grow to look like their dogs, and I wanted to be taller and thinner. Well, what’s happened is that Zoe has gotten thicker through the middle, and I’ve got grayer… and hair on my chin.