Sunday, January 24, 2016 Bald Eagles hunting

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 9:30 am, sunset 4:49 pm for a total daylight of 7 hours and 19 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 38 seconds longer.

Low of 38, high of 43, cloudy with occasional light sprinkles. The weather has been like this forever, very monotonous, and in various shades of gray. The ground is bare, revealing dead brown grass, mud, and ice. I even washed my car yesterday. Some willows are budding out. Is this January?

On Wednesday afternoon, January 20, I ventured out to Lowell Point Beach. The bay seemed absolutely empty, not even a HARLEQUIN in sight. But after a while, two resident BALD EAGLES put on quite a show. First one, then the other launched off their spruce top perch over the water. Their wild cries rang out as they flew low over the water, hunting.

One Eagle reached down and grabbed something from the surface, and calling triumphantly, flew straight for Pinnacle Rock, a prominent feature of the state park, and favorite dining table. As the water drops cascaded off the Eagle, I could see the prey was not an intact seabird, but more likely one of many COMMON MURRE carcasses that floated off the beach during a recent high tide. The bay keeps them refrigerated like leftovers for dinner.

The Eagle stood on the carcass, surrounded by other carcasses, and seemed a bit disappointed with its catch. Guess it was already stripped. Soon the giant raptor took flight and headed back out over the bay. Oddly, a large codfish floated half-submerged at the surface. Bam! The Eagle struck, grabbing the surprised fish by the tail with a splash! After a brief struggle, the codfish broke loose from the single talon hold and dove back into the water. The Eagle gave up and flew back to the spruce tree to rest.

Shortly afterwards, both Eagles took off again, heading back to that fish. I wonder if it was injured? A swing and a miss! The fish gave a mighty splash, and the second Eagle swerved in for the kill. Another swing and a miss! Then another! I think that fish was just too heavy. 

After those failures, the disgusted Eagles flew off in different directions, still vocalizing, heading for the trees to rest and muse over the tremendous feast they had both narrowly missed. Can’t eat misses!

Fortunately, a small number of COMMON MURRES survived the recent wreck. No doubt the Eagles continue to target whatever Murres they can find, but with the scarcity, it’s getting harder. That cod would have really been provident.

A few days later, I watched a Bald Eagle ripping into an intact Murre with gusto; one lives, one dies.

The Pacific Cod fishing boats headed out this week and weather-permitting, should be returning with their catch for processing soon. The fish waste from the local processors will really perk up the food web, and perhaps save a lot of bird lives.

Check out these mesmerizing Cornell Bird Migration Maps. Only three Alaskan species are shown, 10 Black Turnstone, 43 Golden-crowned Sparrow, and 46 Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, but it's fascinating. Thanks, Janis for sharing!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment