Eagles in Late Winter

I’ve photographed three Bald Eagles hunting and scavenging since the third of March. A friend saw a mature eagle flying with a stick in its talons on March 4 – nest building (or nest enhancement). It’s becoming more and more difficult to remember the Bald Eagle as an endangered species. In 1976 just one nesting pair, a nonproductive pair, was reported for the entire state of New York; today there are several hundred nesting pairs in the state.

Eagles are opportunistic predators and will hunt, steal and scavenge for food. In this region, the carcasses of road-killed deer in farm fields are a dietary staple in winter.

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When eagles discover a rich food source like this, they can gorge, storing much of the ingested meat (up to two pounds) in their crop.

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I wasn’t able to determine the relationship between these birds, other than the dominance of one over the other at the feeding site. The adult plumage indicates sexual maturity and an age of at least five years (longevity in the wild averages about 20 years). The average weight of an eagle is about 10 pounds; females tend to be about 25% larger than males, and one bird does appear to be larger than the other.They could be a mated pair, doing what eagles do – squabbling over food.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Hunting Deer on Thin Ice

Late winter, with a combination of ice and open water on surface waters, presents a fleeting window of opportunity for nature photography. My recent posts on ducks, muskrats and mink were the result of this phenomenon. It was 60 degrees F today, the ice is melting quickly, and the window is about to close. I plan to shoot until it does.

This morning I followed up on a report of eagles feeding on a dead deer on the thin ice of a local reservoir. I found three bald eagles and a coyote in the area. Two mature eagles were on the carcass and a juvenile was a couple hundred feet away, near the distant shore. The coyote made a brief appearance, hunting the far shoreline and ecotone. Much of what I observed was beyond the reach of my gear, but I managed to capture the essence of the experience!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.