Thursday, March 24, 2016 Bald Eagle in the water

Seward, Alaska

Yesterday, I happened to be approaching the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands when an adult BALD EAGLE flew down to the shallow water next to the road and landed with a big splash. I immediately pulled over and started taking photos.

At first, I thought the Eagle had pounced on one of the Mallards or Common Mergansers that frequent the wetlands. It was hard to tell exactly what was happening. Was it trying to drown the duck by holding it underwater? Was the duck fighting back mightily, throwing the Eagle off balance?

I just kept shooting and wondering. It was bizarre hunting behavior for an Eagle. Usually, they just grab and go. But no, the Eagle kept splashing around, submerging one side and then the other up to the wing pits, then on its back with a little back stroke, forward on its belly, a few short strokes, tail up and down; everything but the fierce head got a thorough drenching.

Finally, it dawned on me that this was a regal Eagle bath! How amazing!

In the middle of the wetlands, the resident TRUMPETER SWAN parents have been working like living excavators, piling up a huge mound of vegetation for their third year nest. MALLARDS hovered around the work scene, plucking tidbits as they floated past. A few took a nap on the nest mound while the Swans were busy on the far end. This easy camaraderie will not be tolerated for much longer.

In fact, the Swans took a break and started paddling over side by side with purpose to investigate the Eagle, ready to evict this invader that dared to bathe in their territory.

The Eagle apparently got the hint and decided it was clean enough. Soggy though it was, it flew off to a nearby snag to shake off. I carefully checked its talons to make sure there was no prey. Nope! 

After the Swans cruised triumphantly and majestically back to the nest area, and the clean Eagle flew away, I slowly approached the bath site in case there was an abandoned carcass. Nope. It was just a bath after all.

I was surprised to note that the whole show only lasted two minutes; timing is everything. I am so glad that I just happened to be there.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing sequence of photos. I'm glad you were in the right place too. I especially love the water droplets coming off the eagle in the last photo!