Thursday, November 29, 2012 Agile Eagle Hunter

Seward Sporadic Bird Report

Cold (upper teens) and clear with a hazy sky due to glacial dust in the air. Very strong north wind!

On my way out to Lowell Point today, I spotted an adult BALD EAGLE swerving and wheeling just offshore, scarcely above the waves. I pulled over and watched in amazement.

After the brief flyover, it rose up a short distance and hovered, ponderously flapping its giant wings to remain in a fixed position, ready to pounce. I assumed this was the spot where a hapless duck dove. That duck held its breath a long time, longer than the eagle could hover. Breaking away, the eagle stroked upwards, framed against the snowy mountains, briefly caught its breath then soared back down. The clever duck watched carefully, probably catching its breath too.  The determined eagle swooped, rose up, deftly spun around and plunged. At the last instant, the duck dove, leaving nothing but a splash. Again, the eagle hovered then flew low over the waves, watching, watching. Nothing. The eagle's beak was open, breathing hard. I could feel its frustration and desire for that duck. Hungry!

This pattern repeated several more times, each time leaving the eagle with nothing but a splash of salt water. Finally, it broke off and stroked for a nearby spruce to rest and reconsider the menu. I don't know how long the eagle had been hunting before I arrived, but I watched the drama unfold for 7 minutes. What an agile athlete! I have never seen an eagle work so hard for lunch!

After the danger had passed, I finally saw the duck, a male BARROW'S GOLDENEYE. He must be much healthier than last winter's starving, sluggish Common Murres that seemed to have an "Eat me" sign on their backs. Still, I wondered why the Goldeneye was alone as they usually hang out in a large raft.

I continued to Lowell Point Beach to walk and swim the good dog. After I left the beach, I heard a loud whistling and whirring. I turned around to see a huge flock of at least 200 hundred BARROW'S GOLDENEYES flying from around the point to the protected area by Pinnacle Rock. I wonder if "Lunch" was with them, glad to be alive and an anonymous part of the crowd.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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