Friday, January 17, 2014

AND THEN THERE WERE EAGLES

and I lost my hat, almost.
The wind came from nowhere immediately, it seemed and really caused havoc with the water’s surface.  My favorite hat was lifted off my head by the wind and I watched with great disappointment and sorrow as it sailed into a high arc far above and behind the boat appearing animated against the blue sky and fell unceremoniously into the waves. Click the You Tube square to watch it there.  It will be larger format.
Good Grief, the pressure of it all! 
The temperature was 28 degrees when I left the humble abode this morning  and I was determined to get on the lake no matter what extremes existed.  I only got my jon boat back from the marine mechanic two days ago and was excited to put it through the paces on Douglas Lake and assure myself that the engine was running perfectly.  As it turned out – the engine does indeed run perfectly, so perfectly that I’m beginning to enjoy this little aluminum boat more than the 22 foot bay boat.  That may be an over statement because when the water turns nasty with waves the bigger boat is a comfortable platform to be on.  It’s all about the correct tool to do the job...
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The sunrise wasn’t as spectacular as the gorgeous sky show two days ago but it wasn’t shabby either.  I popped a couple of hand warmers (thanks Anne) into the lobster gloves I use and was on my way up the lake.
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Douglas is really pretty early in the morning when it’s too dark to see much of anything.  The shoreline sort of blends into the dark tree and waterlines of the lake camouflaging the nasty brown mucky, sticky, red, soft mud.
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I was coming up on thousands of gulls.  That huge flock in the picture is only a portion of the gulls as they wrap around the corner at the left side of the photo and continue down the lake.  I believe it save to assume they are involved In a feeding frenzy.  Sure is a healthy population of gulls in Tennessee.  Let’s see – what was the statement made about the sandhill cranes?  There’s enough of them to hunt them. It’s our duty to hunt them.   Humm.  Wonder when gulls will be considered for hunting.  I better shut up before some politician scratches his head, looks up in the air and wonders, “why didn’t I think of that?”
The birds in the above two shots are ringed bill gulls..We talked about them in previous entries.  They have the black band around their bills.  Well, one particular gull kept following my boat’s wake and he would dive down onto the surface constantly and pick up tiny shad.  This is a smart bird because he has learned that the boat’s prop churns up tiny critters that swim just below the water’s surface.  I was setting the table for him.  There’s something else about this gull.  Look at his eyes.  Those eyes scream intelligence and makes me wonder if they transmit information to a brain that can process images and cause the bird to react through current visual data rather than genetic wiriing .  Really look at those intelligent eyes.  Wow!
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Are his eyes not amazing?
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This gull is gorgeous with his black wing tips and band around his bill that highlights his soft white plumage.  But those eyes----
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He stayed with me for about ten full minutes and finally broke away to fly off toward his fellow countrymen. 
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Oh, the eagles.  I almost forgot.
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I was the only boat on the water so far this morning and I always look for bald eagles when cruising the shorelines of Douglas, especially in late January through March when the migrating eagles usually appear on the lake.  It was early and the usual backlighted sky was present so good shots would be difficult.  I thought I’d show you what I see when I first come upon an eagle.  I did not have field glasses with me this morning so I had to rely on past experience to pick them out as they lounged peacefully in their habitat, which means perched in trees.  Some of them are very difficult to see and I speak of the immature eagles (under 4 years old).  They do not have the white head and tail feather tips of the mature birds and blend in quite well with the shadows created by the limbs and foliage of trees.  Anyway, the pictures are not great and usually I wouldn’t keep any of these but they do represent what I see when I happen upon them while cruising the lake.
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A fisherman might not see the eagle above if he isn’t paying attention to his surroundings.  They usually sit quietly and unmoving while they scan everything around and under them, particularly the water.
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I told you the shots weren’t too good.  The bird above is an enlargement of the first shot above. He is very young with his white flecked plumage only just starting to show.  He became nervous and launched off the limb.
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This eagle is not a particularly large eagle youngster which indicates to me that it may be a female.
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The casual observer could miss the eagle in the above picture.  He is obscured by his surrounding habitat which does not allow him to be highlighted against the sky.  He appears again below as I move closer to him along the shoreline.
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He finally leaps off his limb and is away.
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I almost missed the eagle below:  It was quite by accident that I saw him at all as I was in shallow water and focused on my GPS screen.  I saw him when I tilted my head back and raised the beak of my hat up above my eyes.
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And then there are the adults, which are easier to see, that sit far back on the side of the mountain pretending they are gods.
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And, they are indeed gods.
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Ya have to be on your game to see some of these far away eagles who dwell in the shadows.  See below:
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Tricky business this eagle watching.  I’ll not put anymore shots up here today but it’s interesting to know that I documented 8 Immature and 3 adult bald eagles within a 3 mile coast line on Douglas Lake this morning.  That’s an amazing number and a disproportionate ratio of immature to adult eagles indicating that most of these immature eagles are migrating eagles and most will eventually head North in the springtime.  Interesting stuff.  Alright – that’s it for today.  Hope you enjoyed the entry and me losing my hat, almost.  See ya.
Ah Oh - Here comes some weather.