Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day 175, Tuesday, 7/1/08, Year Four Dancer & Daedee: Snow Falling on Eagles

Hello Eagle Friends,

It was a beautiful day in the valley despite the mid 80s temperatures and humidity. I arrived later in the day hoping to catch some of the evening activities of the valley.

I found nothing going on at nest 7.

I hiked out to nest 1 and heard the calls of an eaglet to the south cottonwood grove. It had the higher pitched cry like Daniels Charlie and I fully expected to only find one eaglet on the nest tree when I arrived to my eagle post.

However, when I reached my west post after pushing through the 10 foot grasses that are beginning to collapse together over my path due to their weight, I found two eaglets in the middle of the nest batting each other with their wings.

I was sure I had just missed the feeding and the eaglets were grabbing the last bites when I lifted my lens to their nest.
Then out of nowhere I heard this deafening rush of wings and when I looked up I saw, then felt the downwind of Dancer
dropping down to the nest to deliver a fish.

The twins beat him with their wings and pushed him to the edge of the nest. He sat on the west side of the nest panting from his flight and the weight of carrying the fish through the even heavier air. He sat for a few minutes and then hopped up to the west perch to watch his boys.

As usual, while I was photographing the twins he slipped away silently to the call of the river.

I wondered if that eaglet I heard on my hike out was Terry Gail. If I could have found the eaglet, I would have known for she has a lot more white on her than any eaglet I've seen.

I was shooting images of the twins spreading their wings out across the nest when I saw the white head of Daedee flying into my view. The twins rolled her into the nest, with Daniels underneath and D'ODEE hopping on her back knocking her to the south side of the nest.

An eaglet has but two seconds to grab the incoming food from the other eaglet and this time it was D'ODEE who was on the right side of the nest at the right time.

Daedee flew off and I watched both eaglets tear at the fish, literally splitting it in two.

I watched them swallowing down softball sized chunks of the fish as fast as they could. The next thing I saw was Daniels pushing D'ODEE from under his right wing. He kept rooting underneath, trying to push his way to the fish, but D'ODEE held his ground even when pushed to the outer limits of the nest.

Then both eaglets lifted their heads and both had part of the fish in their mouth. Daniels had the tail end and slurped the ten inches of fish down his expanding throat. I watched it going down in five large gulps it was gone.

In only a few minutes both fish were gone and the twins settled down fed, but never really full. Daniels moved to the west perch and D'ODEE remained in the nest watching for his next meal.

It's a rare day that I am able to get so many action shots with good lighting. The lightening is always broken on the nest, but
I left today thankful for this opportunity to capture a small piece of the eaglets private lives.

I moved on to nest 2 and found the nest empty. For a moment I stopped shooting and sat wondering if perhaps I had walked right by Terry Gail while hiking out to nest 1.

On my way to nest 6 I found a raccoon fishing in the creek. I thought my appearance would scare him off, but he or she was too focused on whatever it was fishing for in the creek. I watched this curious little critter reaching forward in the small rapids trying to grab at something floating away in them.

He jumped into the moving water and grabbed with his little hands the long stick covered with grasses, and snails. I wish the lightening could have been better, but then again, coons aren't something you find out before dusk too often either. This is the fifth coon I've seen this week. Maybe it is the heat that is bringing the coons out to the rivers earlier to satisfy their thirst.

I only saw one eaglet on nest 6.

At nest 5 I didn't see any eaglets at first, but I heard them. Upon further examination f their nest I saw them both huddled together so close they became one. I sat there briefly but neither moved while I was there.

At nest 3 I found Victory Bell up on the nest and eating something inside. I couldn't see anything at nest 4. I began to hike back and had full intentions of going to nest 4, but at the divide I decided to follow nest 3s path.

I heard the ailing cries of the mother wood duck, a warning call she gave as she lifted a foot of the lily pads and sent her ducklings in an opposite direction. The ducklings knew to scatter and they did. The mom moved on calling out trying to draw me to her and away from her ducklings.

I shot a few pictures but kept hiking as the sun had already gone down and there was only 30 or 40 minutes of light left.
I found Edward of Elaina, Victory Bells mom or dad on a perch by the nest tree. The eagle was tearing at the flesh of a huge
sucker. I don't even know how that eagle carried a fish that big up to its perch.

By the time I reached nest 3, Victory Bell had gone back into the nest and I could only see the nest. I could have felt disappointed but I had barely put my camera down when I heard, then saw a pair of sandhill cranes rise in front of me, flying against the powder-pink clouds.

I followed the path further from my truck and deeper into the mosquito's to the sound of more cranes ahead. I should have brought my tripod, and now had to use every muscle I had to steady the weight of my lens against the slowness of my shutter in the low light.

I actually got a few shots that looked good.

I was enjoying the hike and thought about continuing for a little while yet, but decided I better turn and head back or I would be swarmed by mosquitos instead of just a bite every few seconds.

As I took my last turn I heard a sharp bark of a coyote. He was in the grasses by me, somewhere on the edge of the slough, but I couldn't see him.

Then I noticed a heap of yellow and black dung beetles beneath my step. Upon further examination, I noticed the dead vole under the beetles that clean up the deaths. The poor little mom ripped open with her little babies pressed into the grasses still attached to her. It was a sight that saddened me.

With as much death as I see in this valley, I never get used to it.

On my drive out of the dark valley I stopped several times for deer and their fawns, and then there was the angelic look from the fox who sat on the edge of the road for a moment before darting into the grasses. Something in his stare gave me reason to pause too, and thank God for all I had seen today.

I'm looking forward to day 176.

See you on the journey--


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