Saturday, November 24, 2012

AERIAL COMBAT


















I was up at 4:30AM and ready to get going.  For some reason I get excited about getting on the water at sun-up.  It was cold outside.  Did I say cold?  Hows 33 degrees sound?  No big deal though as the temperatures would rise by the time I got to the water.  (attempt at humor)  I keep all the warm garments behind the seat in the truck and I assure you I'm ready for any kind of weather that comes up. There was not one vehicle in the parking lot.  Not one!  Perfect.   I was scheduled to run on the bay area adjacent to the dam and then up Flat Creek.  No other water is authorized today.  I glassed the opposite shoreline just for the heck of it and saw an eagle.  What the heck - I'll get coordinates on that bird and be on my way.

He took off as soon as I approached.  I know, I know that I said I wouldn't be dwelling on eagles so much but they're right there in front of me.  I can't ignore them.  I took a couple shots of him and documented his coordinates and was off again on my rounds.


I not only couldn't see a fishing boat in my area but I couldn't see one on the most distant horizon.  I was totally alone.  Guess I'd just have to deal with it.
I turned the boat to the right toward the mouth of Flat Creek and almost goofed up.  See below:
Yep - the pointer is me.  I marked that big rock after hitting it and busting my lower unit to pieces last Spring.  It isn't marked on the GPS map or the lake map.  I've been going around that spot all Summer.  Now, when I really should go around it, I go right over it. Fortunately the water level was deep enough today.  I never come this way from the opposite shore line like I did this morning and just didn't think of this little hidden treasure.  It did make me grit my teeth (gums) and raise the engine instantly.  As you can see I glided right over the big piece of rock.
Things are getting treacherous down here on the ole mud hole.
I glassed the shore line of Flat Creek for fishing boats and the line was totally absent of any type of boat or fisherman on shore.  Then I glassed the trees.
Look carefully and you can see two bald eagles in the picture.  An adult is on a limb in the extreme lower left corner of the picture.  An immature eagle is in the tree upper right corner of the shot.  As I cruised up the shoreline and closed the distance between us, the adult bald eagle took to the sky.

The immature waited on the limb.  I could see him look at me.  Binoculars are great.  Wonder what he thinks.

The young eagle left his perch in short order.

I never had to touch the throttle of the boat.  It kept idling along at the normal work speed.  I pushed save on my hand held GPS to record the grid coordinates of the two eagles.  In an instant the quiet was broken with very loud shrieking.  An uninterupted shriek, shriek, shriek at a high volume could be heard from above.  When I looked I saw that the adult eagle had returned when he saw the immature leave his limb and was attacking the young bird with vigor.

   The adult would position himself directly over the immature and swoop down at an angle toward the young eagle's back with legs extended - and I'm sure talons open.  The immature would seem to always be able to bank left or right to avoid contact.  Then the adult actually flew under the immature and when right on him, rolled over upside down with legs again extended toward the youth's belly.  Again the young bird avoided this attack by swooping straight up in the air.  This was amazing to watch.  I've never seen such an attack.  All the while they were moving further and further away from me and always into the sun.  I kept shooting.


The adult was up to something.  He would fly just ahead of the youngster and move closer and closer forcing the young fella to alter his course.  Then the adult made his move.  It was spectacular and unbelievable.
The adult banked to the left as if to leave and came up fast behind the immature.
I thought his speed would cause him to shoot past and underneath the youth.  The adult shot up to and within inches of the young bird, collapsed his wings and rolled his body over until he was upside down beneath the immature, opened his wings, extended those legs with the needle sharp talons at the end and made contact with the immature eagle.  They folded in mid air for a moment.  
The constant shrieking ended as the adult, satiated and victorious banked around and headed away.  The immature kept flying in the opposite direction.
What I wouldn't have given to have this confrontation occur a hundred feet above me. Those would be award winning shots for sure.  The best I could do was capture silhouette pictures.  I have a feeling I'll run across these confrontations again before Spring.  There are many, many eagles on this lake and war is likely to occur frequently over the Winter months.  This was breath taking to watch.  I was privileged to observe the whole thing through binoculars.  I knew that eagles would drive off others but I didn't think they were ready to do battle to the death.  That adult was ultra aggressive and serious.  Wow!
 The eagle escapade is a tough act to follow.  Whew!  Geese were flying overhead and preparing to land.  Geese are peace loving creatures - I think.
They were coming down right in front of the boat.



Well, well, well - there's a fisherman - sort of.  He slammed the hood shut on his truck and inserted his hands in his pockets, leaned his back against the driver's door and stared at the ground.  I shut off the motor and yelled, "need any help?"

He yelled back, "got any antifreeze?"

The radiator in his truck busted open as he was backing down to the water.  He was out on the dried mud shoreline and not on a parking facility.  I didn't want to ignore him if he needed help.  He waved me off and started walking up toward some houses.
There was my one and only chance to interview a fisherman today and he never got in the water.  He was really upset.  He didn't walk off - he stomped away never taking his eyes off the ground.  It wasn't funny at all but, I managed a barely audible chortle. 

All in all it's been a great morning - a fantastic morning!  I'll be back up on Muddy Creek tomorrow for more adventure.  "Have boat will travel"   Hey - I like that.

We've got the elk survey coming up on the 26th and I am going to visit the eagle hack tower shortly after so there are some interesting things in the very near future.  Please stay tuned in.  I appreciate your interest in what I do.