Wonder and Awe

Yesterday morning, at the edge of the Bow River, I met the new female Bald Eagle. I’ve been observing for the same nest for six years. I’m uncertain, still, about what happened to Mrs., the older female that had raised several young successfully over the years. She was a powerful bird, but last year, was looking a little haggard. From what I’ve read, she would have been either killed or pushed out of the territory by a younger female eagle. It is the way of youth and age.

This photo archives the last evening that I observed Mr. and Mrs. together at the Bow. The female is always slightly larger in breadth than the male. She is sitting on the left.

The photo, below, is from one of the last series I took of our Mrs., this after a series that showed that likely she had an injury to the talons on her left leg.

A young four/five year old appeared out of nowhere soon after, replacing Mom, in her amazing efforts to raise and feed the newly fledged juveniles. I took to calling her ‘the huntress’ because she had such a remarkable speed and was so generous in providing food for the two juveniles. I never captured a clear photograph of her with my Canon Powershot, but will see if I can’t get permission to post a friend’s photograph later.

The juveniles, now a year old, if they have managed through the winter, are now called Immature Eagles. They show slight mottling of the brown feathers and a little bit of yellow coming into their steely blue-grey beaks. I think that only one remains, but not really certain because after six weeks with the adults, they are pushed out of the hunting territory and forced to hunt on their own. I’ve made several sightings this winter of an Immature Eagle and also a two year old that is likely the one surviving fledge from the 2018 nest. Only 2% of Bald Eagles make it through their first winter.

A huge cold snap locked Calgary into -40 temperatures (with wind chill) for over a week and during that time, the huntress disappeared, although I made several sightings of Mr.

Then, something curious happened. Several of the Bow River birders and photographers were posting photographs of a new raptor, easily identifiable by her beautiful streamlined head and beak. My first observation of her was at a great distance above the river, looking down at her feeding on a deer carcass with an Immature eagle.

And now…I arrive at the ‘wonder and awe’ theme. Yesterday morning, I arrived at the river’s edge while the weather was still a melt. The wind blew ferociously the night before and melting snow puddled the banks and the pathways. I spotted her immediately and archived several amazing moments as this beautiful new female brought two large branches to build up railings at the nest. Shortly after, she and Mr. began to hunt together, soaring in circles, flying south, then returning to me until finally, she landed in a branch on my side of the river and with a good view of hundreds of Common Goldeneyes that were gathered too close for their own good.

My mouth dropped and I quickly started snapping photos. Three times, she left and returned, each time swooping low above the alarmed birds and then returning. This new female Bald Eagle is incredible and it will be a fantastic year, watching any nesting outcomes. Clearly younger, she is sleek looking and is very powerful.

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