Bird Photography Weekly-Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Alaska

Winter is a great time to look for Eagles.  We have them here in NJ on both the Delaware and Hudson Rivers as well as most reservoirs.  Many bird groups or Audubon Societies offer winter Eagle field trips.  Check it out and dress warm if you go. I almost froze my patootie once on an eagle trip.

But, let me tell you an Eagle story.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving around the Wanaque Reservoir I glanced through the trees and there were thousands of Common Mergansers sitting on the water.  Thinking there might be other things hanging around with such a large flock, I slowed up and squeezed into the only available hint of a pull-off.  I walked back to peer over the fence and through the trees.  Hoping for a better view, I followed the fence line until I found a thin opening through the trees, when all of a sudden the Merganzers exploded into a swirling mass of white.  I looked up expecting a Peregrine or some other raptor.  What I saw was a 3rd year immature Bald Eagle.  As soon as the flock would settle down onto another part of the water, he would buzz over the top of them causing them to take to flight again.  He did it repeatedly, I could almost hear the laughing.  I watched transfixed.  I had never seen anything like it.  After playing with the Merganser for several passes, he started to swoop low and drag his big yellow feet in the water that they had vacated.  Maybe he was  fishing?  He suddenly veered off to the north when a large adult Bald Eagle appeared.  It started to do the same thing though-flying low over the water and dragging its feet.  Within a few minutes the immature Bald Eagle was back and they both skimmed the water back and forth dragging their feet.  I watched them for perhaps 20 minutes.  They were still doing it when I left.  It was one of those birdwatching moments when I wished someone else had been there to see it.  Have you seen Eagles do this?  Were they fishing?

To see other birds check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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8 Comments

Filed under Local schmocal, Photos, Stories

8 responses to “Bird Photography Weekly-Bald Eagle

  1. Oooh. What an interesting observation. Immature eagles do “play”, that is practice their hunting skills and learn through trial and error. I would tag the fly-overs with that explanation (just a guess). But I’m sure there’s a better reason for the feet dragging. Fun. Hope someone knows the answer.

  2. Oh, what a great story. Almost makes me feel like I was there too. Thanks so much for sharing. And I LOVE the picture. I’ve got to get out and try to find a Bald Eagle here in Texas!

  3. Fantastic photo – and a very interesting sighting of the eagles.

  4. Red

    Hi Bev!

    That’s a great story of the behavior 🙂 I would have guessed they were fishing too… of course, I don’t know.

    Those poor Mergansers, lol!

  5. What a wonderful eagle observation to observe. I’ve had jobs watching eagles all day long, but I don’t think I have seen them doing this behaviour, unless they were trying to get something just under the surface of the water.

    I love the pix of the eagle too. I always like it when there is snow with the eagles in the picture too.

  6. Very cool story! I get such a thrill when I see an eagle. So huge!

  7. Bev, your description made me feel like I was there watching with you. I know Fishing Bats will fly low to the water and drag their feet while fishing, but of course we all know birds are not bats. 🙂 So who knows?

  8. Great blog about eagles and eagle behavior! Anyone who would like to join a group and learn more about these majestic birds, NJAS’ Weis Ecology Center offers eagle watches:
    Sun, Jan 25 9:30am – 4:30pm along the Hudson River $15M, $19NM (preregistration required);
    or
    Sun, Feb 1 9:30am – 12:30pm along the Delaware River $8M, $12NM (preregistration required).

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