Saturday, February 03, 2007

Eagles on the horizon

No pics, but I did get to see lots of eagles today. The distances are just too great for photos. The pristine, undiked and unditched salt marsh that these gentleman are scanning into stretches for five miles to the west where it meets Delaware Bay. The various wildlife management areas that I was driving the inland edges of today make up one the largest contiguous protected areas in NJ - more than 30,000 acres of prime raptor hunting and nesting area. Not to mention the shorebirds and wading birds and waterfowl that use the area in other seasons. At the horizon in this photo is a nice group of snow geese that were brought up from their feeding by an eagle overhead. In the middle of all that sky and grass often the only clue of an eagle's presence is that the waterfowl suddenly all *get up* and the birder knows to scan above the flock for an eagle.
I spent most of today either freezing cold on the marsh or warm, but lost, in my car. I had maps, but none of them seemed to jive with reality. I asked for directions more times than I can remember and drank too much coffee, but saw some incredible things. About 5 minutes from home I saw my first bald eagle of the day, soaring over the Navesink River. I considered going home and going back to bed at that point, thereby saving myself hours in the car, but decided instead that it must be a good omen. Eagles do nest within 10 or so miles of me, but the site is not viewable from any public property. There's another nest at a county park close to where I work that I visit fairly often.

What draws me to South Jersey at this time of year is the numbers. At one point today I had four eagles in view in my binoculars at the same time. Pretty cool, huh? If you look closely and use your imagination you'll see the eagle's nest in the tree left of center in this pic - see that one that looks a bit darker than the others? There weren't any eagles housekeeping (or having sex) at this nest site, but at another place there was a nest visible on a small wooded island in the marsh - the eagles were doing some housekeeping there, sitting in the nest, and copulating on the ground at the edge of the marsh with a juvenille eagle looking on from above. I couldn't really see that that's what they were doing, but it sure looked like it.
I wish I'd had more daylight and wasn't so worried that I'd never find my way back to civilization - there's so much to see here - so long as you like looking at the horizon and the miles of salt marsh in between. I *just missed* a Golden Eagle (as usual) but watched red-tails harassing bald eagles and harriers hunting over the grass and diving down every so often near a muskrat lodge. I feel really lucky to be able to see these things at all and can't imagine why everyone isn't out there in the cold with me.


Susan Gets Native said...

" spent most of today either freezing cold on the marsh or warm, but lost, in my car"
...been there, done that!

It was just as cold here today. But the old birder saying goes "the worse the weather, the better the birding"
Yeah, whatever.
Copulating, if you had gone home and went back to bed, you would have missed that!

LauraHinNJ said...

I should have mentioned Susan that these places are close to Cape May!


silverlight said...

for Laura:
Oh if only like the EAGLES
I could fly
on outstretched wings,
to soar the thermals
and hear the wind
as in my ears it sings.

Laurie said...

It sounds as if you had a good day despite the weather and the fear of getting lost. I'm glad.

Lynne said...

If it wasn't such a long drive I'd have joined you! ;)

Close to Cape May? Whooeeee-can't wait!

Jayne said...

What a wonderful day you had Laura. I am so very jealous! But, I close my eyes and can imagine what it's like just by reading your wonderful description.

Jimmy said...

Here in Upper Michigan it is -21 out as I write cold for this birder...I seen a N. Shrike at my feeder yersterday. That was about as exciting as the day got.

Liza Lee Miller said...

What a great day! That is so cool!

Mary said...

Who would want to miss copulating eagles? There should have been a crowd out there. LOL!

Glad you went and enjoyed your day.

Sandy said...

Wow, what a pretty place! I love the way that grass looks in the winter. Sounds like you had a very good day. Have you ever been to this place just across the Maryland border, to see eagles? Donna posted this last month.

Floridacracker said...

My whole view of NJ is changing. Those marsh scenes could be anywhere around here.

LauraHinNJ said...

Silverlight: Thank you - I would like to hear the wind singing!

Laurie: It was fun - the weather is part of it, really. The getting lost not so much!

Lynne: Well, close in a general sort of way! Considering how far you'll be coming.

Jayne: Yes it was a treat - if only I'd stayed for the owl walk. Maybe next time when I have a better map.

Jimmy: But I'm sure you're used to the cold. ;-) Really I like the cold and didn't even bother with my heavy coat.

Liza: Yep - fun!

Mary: There was also some indoor stuff and I think that's where the crowds were. Seems silly to me.

Sandy: Thanks for that link - what gorgeous photos! Never been to Conowingo Dam but have heard of it and the eagles there.

mon@rch said...

What a great day with wonderful pictures! I am also one who always "just missed" the golden!