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!
Many wildlife stories are unfolding in Central New York as the deep snow and unprecedented cold weather persist. For now, I’ll pretend the glass is half full, rather than nearly empty, and present selected images from February 28 through today.
This is a follow-up to a recent post on a resident pair of Bald Eagles that are cruising the airways for carrion. In this case, I was able to capture one of the pair in flight as it circled prior to coming in for a meal on a road-killed deer. The site is active farmland, planted in a cover crop. It’s not far (as an eagle flies) from a small reservoir.
Thirty five years ago photographs of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would have made front-page-headlines. It was then that this magnificent bird of prey, our national emblem and a symbolic, spiritual bird to Native Americans, had to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Pesticides were a major culprit, accumulating to toxic levels in the food chain and causing reproductive failures in predatory species. Since then, the Bald Eagle has made a remarkable come-back throughout North America and was removed from the Endangered Species list in 2007.
In the late 19th century many reservoirs were built in central New York to provide water for an extensive canal system and today, much of the land adjacent to them is a mosaic of farms and woodlands. This is good eagle habitat and eagle sightings are not at all unusual now, especially when a carcass shows up in an open field not far from a reservoir. Although fish are a dietary staple, Bald Eagles are opportunistic feeders and will spend several days competing with crows, vultures and other scavengers for the meat on a deer carcass.
Mature Bald Eagle feeding on a deer carcass in mid-November
Earlier in the week, a friend called to tell me about a great photo op near home – a Bald Eagle (sometimes a pair) feeding on a deer carcass. I was fortunate enough to find one bird at the site on two different days. This post, including the photo above and the gallery that follows, features some highlights from that experience.
Mature Bald Eagle feeding on a deer carcass
Tugging at the carcass to expose something edible (1 of 3)
Departure; probably heading to a roost in the large, mature timber adjacent to a nearby reservoir (1 of 5)