Friday, March 8, 2013

Golden Eagles battle in the air


The third apparent Golden Eagle flew in directly at the subadult Golden Eagle. I jumped out of my car and starting shooting these photos showing the sequence of events. Almost immediately the two had their talons locked. Birds of North America (BNA) online notes that when a Golden Eagle is attacked "...often responds by rolling over and presenting talons to the aggressor." That may be what is seen in this first photo.
I found another interesting note in BNA online that sounds a lot like what I observed: "However, 2 instances of talon-grappling in Montana both occurred near an eyrie after a “rushing attack” by an adult at an immature...."

In the next several photos the eagles continue with the talons apparently locked together as they appear to battle each other.

Now it was getting scary as the eagles had been tumbling together with talons locked.

BNA states, "Rarely, lock talons and tumble through the air; sometimes fall several revolutions and other times tumble to the ground before releasing grip."

Fortunately these two did release their grips after a few revolutions and the subadult tucks it's wings to fly away from the attacker.

And the subadult continues flying away from the aggressor. I was too busy with this battle to see what happened to the first probable adult eagle that the subadult had been flying with. As I watched the subadult flying as far and fast away as it could, the Golden Eagle that attacked it appeared to be flying towards the first adult eagle but I quickly lost them all in the distance. Interestingly, though this seemed to take a few minutes my camera documents it was less than a minute from the beginning of the attack to the final photo. SeEtta

Subadult Golden Eagle


Earlier today two Golden Eagles were seen from Holcim Wetlands--one that I thought was a juvenile as I could see white patches on the underside of each wing and some on tail. It was flying with another Golden Eagle that appeared to be an adult (more distant so features not clear). An hour or so later as I drove home I spotted 2 Golden Eagles flying together so I drove after to them to see if this was likely the same two (I was only about 10 miles from the first sighting so not a lot of Golden Eagles expected in that relatively small area). Bingo, I got close enough to see that one appeared to be an adult and the other had the white on it's underwings and tail as I had seen on the young bird earlier. I was able to get this photo of the young bird and it shows that the white patches on the underwings are limited but there is a large amount of white on the inner half of the tail so looks like it is a subadult I (an eagle in it's second year of life). This subadult Golden Eagle continued to fly in apparent harmony with the probably adult Golden Eagle. Then I saw what looked like a third Golden Eagle flying towards these two--see next post for what happens. SeEtta

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bohemian Waxwings fly-catching aerial insects


Today I drove to the Holcim Wetlands east of Florence,CO to check on Great Blue Heron nesting. Didn't see any evidence they were refurbishing last years nests or building new ones but spotted some unusual looking 'fly-catchers.' Turned out to be a small flock of about a dozen Bohemian Waxwings sallying out from a dead tree adjacent to the Arkansas River. This irruptive species has been reported about 15 miles north of here in El Paso County in the past several weeks. I had not heard of this before but I have very limited experience with the species. I checked Birds of North America (BNA)online and found the following: "Noted for sallying from exposed perches, often near water, to feed on aerial insect." Exactly what I had observed.

Interestingly there were a lot of Russian Olive trees loaded with their fruit that about 50 robins were feasting on. Though BNA noted that Bohemian Waxwings do eat Russian Olive fruit in the winter these birds stayed high in the dead tree getting their protein. The top two pics show the distinctive rufous undertail coverts and grayish body found on this species. SeEtta

American Dipper in Bighorn Canyon


Just as the Bald Eagles are in the Bighorn Canyon to forage along the Arkansas River that runs through this scenic area, so are the American Dippers. I was also disappointed in the low number of dippers I found--only 2. They are usually beginning to nest around now but I saw no evidence of nest building at each of 3 long term nesting locations. And generally they are in pairs by now. Possible reasons could be the ongoing drought which has reduced the Arkansas River to much lower levels than usual or maybe the drought has reduced their food source? It is difficult for them to nest as recreation has increased substantially on this areas of the Arkansas River, both from boaters (most rafted river in U.S.) and fishermen. There were even 3 goldpanners near one of their traditional nest locations today and they get flushed by people so close to the places they nest.

I like how all the small eddys showed so well in the top photo. In the bottom pic I believe the dipper was grabbing a bit to eat (beak is wide open). SeEtta

Bald Eagle in Bighorn Sheep Canyon in Colorado today


During the winter Bald Eagles move south to areas with open water and the Arkansas River through the Bighorn Canyon is always open for at least much of the way even in severe winters. I was disappointed to find only this one Bald Eagle but this is around the time they start migrating back north. Sorry for not getting good close-ups but this eagle was perched about 350 feet away.

This is a subadult IV, meaning it is an eagle in it's 4th year. While some eagles attain full adult plumage at this age some, like this bird are only close. It has dark smudges on it's yellow bill, it's white head and neck have dark markings, some white feathering on both it's body and flight feathers, some retained white splotches on it's belly and flanks, and dark markings on it's tail feathers. SeEtta