Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Gathering of Eagles

We saw lots of variety and action among the eagles this weekend in Western Kentucky. KY Fish and Wildlife has been putting radio transmitters on some eagles in the last couple years to see where they actually go, and they have gotten good data, but sadly, the birds don't seem to be living very long, something NOT related to the transmitter, but something that can be recorded accurately with the transmitter. In 2014 they found 131 active nests in the state, and everyone's very excited with the numbers. Young birds travel in all directions, some up north, even as far as Canada, and some going to the south. The one mature bird they tracked had a large territory (about 15 X 16 miles). There were other pairs there as well, and he always flew wide of their nests to avoid attack. We especially enjoyed the many varieties of brown and white in the immature birds until they get their white heads and tails at age 5.
If you can find two birds sitting side by side, like this, you can guess their gender just by looking - the larger bird on the left is the female. But it's hard to catch them like this!
We saw some really good activity among the eagles. These two are definitely love birds!
Next they will work to improve a nest from last year, or maybe start a new nest. It's amazing to watch them select and carry the sticks to the nest site.
It's early in the season, but we did see one bird on the nest already, unless she's considering new wallpaper patterns!
I love the flight patterns. Total count for our weekend - 8 birding on Saturday morning, 38 from the boat that afternoon, and 82 at Ballard WMA this morning! Woo-Hoo! 128 altogether!
This morning we took an early van ride from the park to Ballard Wildlife Management Area. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife manages this area along the Ohio River near the confluence with the Mississippi (and many others across the state), not for the benefit of the wildlife, but for the hunters who pay fees for licenses. It's been pretty cold all weekend - down in the single digits most mornings - and the shallow ponds were frozen, except for a few open areas where all the ducks congregated. Yes, that's where the eagles gathered too! At one point we found 22 eagles gathered around an open pond to hunt for ducks. Some were even standing around on the ice! Of course, you could only get photos of this from the other side of the school bus we rode, but I sneaked a few views between all the heads.

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