Tag Archives: bald eagles

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A Walk Down to the River

It was starting to snow and 14 inches were being called for within the next 36 hours, I thought now would be a good time to take a walk down to the river.

On the other side of the river is a huge field ringed with trees. There are no homes in that stretch. Three deer could be seen in the field. They looked like they were playing in the snow. They would run, then stop. Then run again. Whenever they would stop they would look across the river at me. I had to be a good 150 yards away, but they were still cautious of this lone figure wandering down the hill toward them. Then they would go back to playing.

The river was pretty empty. A few geese were in the open water and I counted a half dozen blue herons spread out and hunkered down on the edge of the ice. Hunting I assume.

I got to the edge of the bluff, still a good 30 feet above the river and started wandering down the thin tree line. In one of the tallest trees that hangs out over the river were a couple of adult eagles. Of course I had to see how close I could get to them.

One didn’t like that and took off. The other didn’t seem to mind so much.

Debbie Granat and her daughter pulled up on the side of the road and I wandered over to talk. Her husband Larry started the Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page and I rely on him for all things eagles in this stretch of the river. One of these days I’ll have a better camera and I can quit asking him for eagle images. Or, I’ll never tell him I got a better camera, keep borrowing eagle images and give him the publicity he deserves.

That sounds better.

After they left I turned around and the skittish eagle was back. I tried stalking up to them again, and again the skittish one took off. Decided to leave them alone and head downstream.

Off on the island was another eagle. In that short period of time, more geese were coming down to the river and a couple of hundred of them were circling the area.

I live about 80 feet away from a pretty heavily wooded ravine. I walked along the top of the bluff, heading for the mouth of the ravine. The tracks of deer, squirrels and what I assume are either coyote or fox were all using the ravine like a highway. I tracked them to the top of the bluff overlooking the ravine.

On a good day wandering down the steep slope of the bluff is a no brainer. Conditions did not make this a good day. All I could imagine was gravity taking over and suddenly finding myself in a heap at the bottom. The tracks being seen were all old, I convinced myself. No point wandering down there.

A juvenile bald eagle drifted overhead and landed in a tree a hundred feet away. This one was on to me, it took off long before I could get any closer.

In that short time, hundreds more geese had arrived. The honking was starting to echo down the river valley. The only ducks I can recognize from a distance are mallards, but I can see that others are different even if I can’t identify them. I saw a couple of other different types of ducks mixed in with all the other waterfowl.

The other day while out shoveling snow at sunset I stopped counting the geese flying overhead when I got to 500. Today, the geese weren’t coming in from north or south. The bulk of them were coming straight down the river out of the west.

This is what I’m going to miss when I move at the end of the month, that ability to wander down a hill and see such a variety of wildlife. Granted, I’ll still be living two blocks from the river, but it’s slightly more urban. There will still be plenty of geese and ducks around, but for the deer and coyote and the bulk of the eagles I’ll have to walk a good half mile downstream.

Maybe a little less.

I’ll try to think of that as a motivating factor, hiking that extra half mile.

I could use the exercise.

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It’s 7 PM and I just came in from wandering around while smoking a cheap cigar. It has to be about 30 degrees out there, no wind, the snow is falling straight down and the neighborhood is dead quiet.

Down on the river a few geese were honking and at the mouth of the ravine, coyotes were howling.

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View from the Porch – North Star and Satellites

Don’t even try talking to me before I’ve sucked down a couple of cups of coffee. Coffee must be sucked down while I’m out on the front porch, with a cheap cigar.
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My first trip out to the porch this morning, it was still dark. If I look up at about a 45 degree angle, the north star is directly in front of me. Since I was a kid and learned to locate the north star via the Big Dipper, I’ve been fascinated how everything in the night sky rotates around this one small spot.

A few minutes later, a satellite cruised across the sky from north to south, more or less. There are no flashing lights, that’s how you know it’s not a high cruising jet.

My next trip out to the front porch, the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. The song birds are enjoying the slightly warmer mornings. Yesterday and today the cardinals were everywhere. You hear them more than see them along with a variety of other unidentified song birds.

A couple of bald eagles came up off the river and started looping upwards. They cruised the tree line out in front of the house and disappeared back over the river. If I had come out on the porch five minutes later, rather than talking about seeing the eagles again, I’d be talking about not seeing any eagles today.

The other morning while still dark, there was a two second display from a meteor. This morning, a satellite and a couple of eagles. Last year while standing out on the porch around 10 PM, a coyote walked down the street and disappeared down into the ravine. Took all of 20 seconds. Another morning this past fall a dozen turkeys wandered down the street to pick the meat out of car crushed acorns from the old oak tree across the street. Here and gone in five minutes.

The chances of me retiring some day are looking like slim to none. But if that opportunity arises, I’ll have one room, walls all made of glass. It will be connected to the rest of the house by a narrow hallway. The time spent at home will be spent primarily in this room, doing something, even if it’s just staring out the windows.

On any given day, I’m missing far too much.

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View from the Porch – Squirrels, Bald Eagles and the Annoying Neighborhood Dogs

Don’t even try talking to me before I’ve sucked down a couple of cups of coffee. Coffee must be sucked down while I’m out on the front porch, with a cheap cigar.
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Every morning when I step out onto my porch, the squirrels come running. Sometimes it will be just one, other days up to a half dozen. Three of them have got used to taking peanuts directly out of my hand with one in particular being extremely brave about the whole thing. He’ll run up to me, touch my foot and get up on his haunches till I head for where the peanuts are kept. They all know where that is and will continue to bug me till I go get them.

Today the squirrels were running a little late. Everything was covered in ice and snow from the great storm that was blown way out of proportion by the news media. Neither ice nor snow amounted to much, but I would imagine hurrying along branches covered in a thin layer of ice is not a smart thing for a squirrel to do.

Through the trees I could see a bald eagle fly down the river heading in the direction of the dam. A few minutes later a couple of juvenile eagles drifted at tree top level over my head. They seem to be doing this more often and I can’t figure out why. My hopes are that they’ve given up on fish and are coming to get some of the worthless neighborhood dogs.

We used to have deer and turkey that wandered through the neighborhood on a regular basis, but we now have a couple of new neighbors living in the houses right next to the ravine and they have a need it seems to leave their dogs out all the time. Haven’t seen a deer or turkey since. I saw a video once of an eagle chasing a mountain goat down a mountain. It would be entertainment at it’s finest to see these eagles chasing down these dogs through the ravine.

Fresh rabbit tracks were in the snow and soft ice directly in front of the porch. A rare sight considering the amount of hawks and falcons in the neighborhood. The rabbit must have a pretty good hiding place it can get to in a hurry.

The other morning while out feeding my aggressive little squirrel, I thought I would try to get a picture of him. I had fed him a couple of peanuts by hand then tossed a few more on the ground. I got up close to the peanut pile with camera in hand and waited. He apparently didn’t see me toss down the peanuts, came right up to me and started to grab the camera. He knew I must have a peanut in my hand somewhere and he wasn’t going to let a camera stand in his way.

It’s hard to get a picture when a squirrel has a paw wrapped around your finger, it’s nose pressed against the lens and he’s trying to pull the camera out of your hand. I settled for something a little more subdued when he finally figured out where the peanuts were.

After a brief departure about a week ago, the ducks and geese are back down on the river by the hundreds. This morning, quacks and honks coming from the river are non-stop and the geese are forever circling over head in loose “V” formations looking for landing spots. Like the worthless neighborhood dogs, the waterfowl also never seem to settle down, only I find the noise of the ducks and geese much more tolerable.

Wildlife Watching and Grocery Shopping

Heading east from my house in Yorkville, which I usually have to do when working, I quickly descend into suburbia and it pretty much stays like that all the way to Chicago. Rows of townhomes that all look alike and the same goes for the stand alone homes in the subdivisions. I like passing the subdivision they called Timber Creek. There is no timber since it was built on a former corn and soybean field and the nearest creek is a good three miles away, but those are just details.

To go grocery shopping I have to drive eight miles to the west. This may sound imposing to those that live to the east, but most of the driving is on roads with 55 mile per hour speed limits and on a bad day it takes me all of 12 minutes to get to the store.

The trip to the store starts at the river below my house where four bald eagles were sitting in the trees on the island like usual.

Like usual, a term I thought I’d never use when referring to bald eagles. Seeing them sitting around in the trees on the island below my house has come to be expected. I can’t remember the last time they weren’t there, like usual.

A half mile west and the first of the farm fields start and that’s pretty much all you see for the next eight miles. Sure, there are a few homes and further off the road are farm houses and barns, but not much else.

At one of the 90 degree bends in the road you have no choice but to slow down to 15 miles per hour. At the bend, in what was a corn field last year, a half dozen turkey were rummaging around in the stubble. They were sticking close to the dense woods that line the river. This area is also home to quite a few coyotes and for as big and cumbersome as a turkey looks, they do a pretty good job of flying fast through dense tree cover.

Not wildlife, but the sheep on one farm were out grazing and further down the road the horses were out. One end of the cattle farm was filled with, well, cattle, while the other end was filled with a few hundred ducks and geese. A creek flows through here and it wasn’t high or frozen. I had been wondering where all the geese on the river had gone to.

A couple of red tailed hawks were picking apart a carcass in a corn field not far from the road and a little further down another hawk was perched near the top of a tree. I’ll assume it was debating whether to kill something or to wait till something died on it’s own. The second choice would be easier, but I imagine it could take a little while longer.

On the way to the store I remembered a couple of things I needed to get but didn’t write down on my list. I have to have a list for grocery shopping, I no longer trust my memory. With no pen in the car I thought, no big deal, I’ll remember.

So much for that. Apparently the distractions of wildlife and farm life pushed those unlisted items from what few brain cells I have left.

That’s alright, I guess it’s back to the store with my new list and the hopes of seeing a deer or two.

Please Don’t put up Pictures of Fog

But I like fog.

I like the way it visually cuts me off from my surroundings. This one wasn’t horribly dense, but you could see nothing beyond the trees on the opposite shore of the river barely 100 yards away. Even those were indistinct shades of gray.

In the tree on the left are a couple of bald eagles, no, really.

Fishing in fog like this is one of my favorite things to do. It makes you concentrate and focus on what is readily apparent rather than letting your mind wander on what is down stream and around the next bend. You can’t see the next bend.

This morning I had already been out on my porch listening to the bald eagles talk down on the river. The geese were being unusually noisy this morning too. Maybe because of the eagles. With the air temperatures just above 40 degrees, it was time to go for a walk. We’ve had a long stretch of below freezing temps and this year my bones are paying the price. Today they didn’t feel so bad.

I could tell by the sound that there were a lot of geese along the river. They were thick on the ice and in the shallow water below the dam when I got there. Some were already getting nervous about me walking along the shore and took off.

The geese that hang out around here all year don’t get so nervous. I can always tell how wild the geese are by how close they let you get. The more domestic ones will let you walk right up to them, they get used to people tossing them food. The wilder ones will start honking and moving around, getting agitated.

I decided to make matters worse by walking out on a spit of land that got me even closer to the geese. The honking kept getting louder.

It wasn’t long before they started leaving in small groups.

This kept up for a few minutes.

Till they were all pretty much airborne.

I quickly realized there were now a few hundred pissed off flying crapping machines over my head.

I flipped the hood onto my head and stood on the end of the spit of land to watch what I started. The honking was deafening and there were so many geese low over my head that I could feel the vibrations from displaced air coming off their wings and onto my eardrums. It took them a few minutes to realize I wasn’t leaving and they headed off down stream.

The other benefit of fog is that it deadens the noise of human activity, but I noticed that it had practically no affect on the sound of the birds on the river. I noticed how clearly I could hear the eagles this morning though they were two blocks away. As I walked home in the same direction the geese flew, I could hear them still pissed off and honking, but I couldn’t see them.

I think I’ve always noticed this, but not so distinctly as today. There must be something about the sound waves from their noises that cuts through the fog. I would assume so they can continue to know where each other are even if they couldn’t see each other.

The geese were heading down stream making a ruckus. I could hear them flying around and remembered that there were few places for them to land. The river further down was already filled with birds and I’m sure no further company was wanted. A half hour later I went in the house. The birds were still squawking loudly.

My mother-in-law was sitting in the living room and commented on the sounds of the geese as I walked into the house. She could hear the noise building out on the river two blocks away even in a closed up house.

Yeah, that was me. I decided to have a little fun with the geese.

“They didn’t sound like they were having fun.”