Eagle hunt

It’s officially spring — no more putting off walking around outdoors.  Where there is open water, there must be something interesting happening, so I drove down to the open stretch of water on the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling to look for Bald Eagles.

While I was looking for eagles, I spotted several flocks of male Common Mergansers doing some courting of the very few females present.

Two groups of male Common Mergansers surround single females, swimming with  her as she moves upstream against the current.  When she dove for fish, they calmly waiting until she resurfaced and then regrouped around her.

Two groups of male Common Mergansers surrounded single females, swimming with her as she moved upstream against the current. When she dove for fish, they calmly waited until she resurfaced and then regrouped around her.

How to be popular with the guys?

How to be popular with the guys?  Come to the party early.  The female is the third one from the right.

I was able to sneak up on one male for a close-up shot before he saw me and swam away.

The dark green iridescent head is impossible to photograph unless the light is just right.

The dark green iridescent head is impossible to photograph unless the light is just right.

I finally spotted eagles flying overhead, circling in upward spirals, chittering to each other as they flew.  I never fail to be impressed by the area of their 6-7.5 foot wingspan!

This one was definitely an adult, with its all white head and tail and dark underwing feathers.

This one was definitely an adult, with its all white head and tail and dark underwing feathers.

This one still hasn't lost some of its white underwing feathers, although it does have a white head and tail.  So, it's probably a breeding individual.

This one still hasn’t lost all of its white underwing feathers, although it does have a white head and tail, so perhaps it is the other bird’s mate.  It seemed larger than the other eagle — perhaps it was a female; they are 25% larger in mass than the males, weighing up to 12 lb.

I followed the eagles as they slowly circled and made their way down the river to finally land in a tree.

Bald Eagles landed in the farthest tree down the river on the right.  But unfortunately, I ran out of land and had to backtrack.

The eagles landed in the farthest tree down the river on the right.  But unfortunately, I ran out of land and had to stop here for my photos of them.  This spot is about 200 yards from where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi, just where the eagles perched.

Here's what the eagles looked like through the binoculars.

Here’s what the eagles looked like through the binoculars — those little black blobs at the tops of the trees.

The best the camera could do -- not really a very satisfying ending to my hunt.

The best a cropped photo could show of the eagles — not really a very satisfying ending to my hunt.

On the hike back to the car, I saw two more eagles fly by, but there were no photo ops. The best photo of the day was at an entirely different location down river on the Mississippi where Bald Eagles are known to congregate, even during the winter.

This eagle was perched at the very top of a tree, about 50 feet from a gigantic nest.  If the pair hasn't mated and laid eggs already, they will shortly.

This eagle was perched at the very top of a tree, about 50 feet from a gigantic nest. If the pair hasn’t mated and laid eggs already, they will shortly.

10 thoughts on “Eagle hunt

  1. Great photos! Takes me back to those days at the The Raptor Center. Once in a while, we got to go out an fly a bald eagle.

    • Ah yes, the good old days of flying with the raptors. Did you know that I’m volunteering there again? Playing with numbers, though, not birds.

  2. I count any day that I see a bald eagle to be a success and you managed to get some nice shots too. Most of the times that I see one, it is soaring high in the air and it’s tough to get a shot with any detail. I really like that final shot.

    • thanks, Allen. Eagles are definitely making a comeback, but we see more of them here on the large rivers and lakes in MN. I imagine you have some long-term nesting eagles in your part of the country as well.

  3. Good to hear you’re getting outside! I really need to start my morning walks again and find some migrants in the neighbourhood, as migration is finally beginning to get underway here in Ottawa. Unfortunately the snow and the cold are going to make the next few days miserable. It’s been one step forward, two steps back for the past few weeks….no prolonged temperatures above 0 to help all the snow melt!

    • I think that is a good definition of spring actually, one step forward and two steps back. Today we have snow again, and freezing temps, after a minor thaw last week. And so it goes…

  4. Spring finally sprung for a day here too. No eagles for me though. We have them but not where I was walking. That’s great that you can get so close to them.

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