Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Variety of Celebrations Eagle Style

The Christmas Feast at Blackwater

4 calling birds

3 French Hens

2 Turtle Doves

AND A Partridge in a pear tree

Thanks for sharing these photos Suzanne


And our Eagle Pairs gathering together once again to Celebrate New Eagle on some of the activity that occurs as pairs once again re-unite at their chosen nesting sites.

Below A Wonderful article written by David Hancock

Bald eagles mate from the time of returning to the nest territory in early fall through egg laying, and sometime a few months after. Like all raptors that I know, the mating takes place when the female is securely standing on a perch, usually a high tree limb, and the males gently lands upon her back, using both his wings to carefully balance, and then curling his tail and cloaca under the female’s tail, which she has simultaneously moved to the side as she turned her cloaca upwards so the two cloaca touch face to face. The sperm passes from his cloaca to hers and then travels up the oviduct to meet the downward flowing ova for the ‘meeting’, the fertilization.
What great moments of trust. These great predators who can instantly kill prey with the sharp and powerful talons are now, so gently and trustfully, coming in direct contact. The trust that allows the female to accept the males killing talons onto her vulnerable back is quite extraordinary – but it is an essential and ultilmate act of the bonding that has been developed between them. No bonding, no trust, no mating, no young, no species!
Lets go back: The Pre-nuptials!!
On October 9, 2002 1030: I was at our Blaine WA warehouse and heard an adult bald eagle scream – I immediately ran outside as this was the first record of the eagles return since their departure in mid-July when they left the nearby nest with the young. But the intensity and pitch of the call was most unusual. It was the males higher pitch but the intensity and constancy of the calling was unusual. But I could see no other birds around or direction to his intentions. This was their favorite hunting perch overlooking Semiamoo Bay so I was used to them being here.
The male continued his calls almost non-stop for over an hours when all of a sudden he changed the pitch and intensity – something was up and I darted outside to see what. He was now standing horizontally on the branch, his head stretched outward to the southern shore of the Bay and his calls were quick and loud. Within a few seconds later and I could focus on the source of his calls – another approaching adult eagle – headed straight at us. The approaching bird stared to scream and it was obviously a female by the deeper call, she circled the calling male and landed on the adjacent tree about 80 feet away. Both birds kept up the calling, and within a few seconds it developed into a “unison” call, with both birds doing the same thing at the same time. Each bird arched its head forward and then upward and backwards over it shoulders so the head followed about 180 degree arch – all the time calling in unison. .
I was mesmerized. I had seen this intense behavior before but always later in the year and as a prelude to mating. Within a minute of these unison calls the male took off, flew directly to the females tree and lighted beside her. Here they continued, even increased the intensity of the calls and head throwing, always in absolute unison. Then it happened. The male jumped up on the females back and they mated. This was October 9. This was approximately 5 months from her first egg. What was the explanation?
I believe I just witnessed the return of the pair to their nesting territory from the short ten week fall northern migration. But what a reunion, what a reaffirmation with incredible vocal intensity, all taking place on their two favorite hunting perches, and then the ultimate, mating, what a climate to the event.
We know that eagles build and intensify the mutual bond between the pair through aerial displays, and particularly through the described mutual vocalizations and displays. But what I think I witnessed that day was the actual moment of their arrival back at the nesting territory after their separate northern sojourns at the end of the last breeding season, their re-confirmation of the bond, their reconfirmation of each other. In 54 years of eagle watching I have seem a lot of eagle courtship, all the aerial flights, the mutual calling and many matings. But never have I seen it done so intensely, and never so early in the year.
Just 40 miles south of Blaine WA, on the Skagit River, the USF&WS had banded a pair of adult eagles with solar powered satellite tracking devices. Sadly their two young were not tagged. But the story of the adults northern migration was quite astounding. The normal pattern of fledging occurred. The adults quite feeding the eaglets in the nest, after about 3 - 5 days they get hungry and make their first flight with the concerned parents watching. After another week of flying around the nest territory, sometimes picking up food that the adults have been eating nearby, the adults simply fly off and leave the youngster to their own fate. Harsh but obviously successful.
But this story is about what happened next to the adults. The male, now being tracked by his satellite marker headed north up the coast, exactly as we had all predicted that all adults and young do after abandoning the nest. Certainly we know that the thousands of nesting eagles of southern British Columbia were not going south as no big numbers of eagles showed up in Washington, Oregon or California in early fall. So they had to go north. The tagged male finally confirmed our suspicions. About three days after leaving the Skagit area he was tracked fishing for herring in the Prince Rupert harbor, about 600 miles up the British Columbia coast and right at the southern Alaska border. I had banded and radio tagged several eagles during my thesis years in the early 1960's but the technology then only allowed line-of-sight transmission and I never got a reading after the day of release – just too many intervening mountains to give a signal. But now we finally had some direct evidence. Our southern eagles do go north when the nesting season is over.
But that was only half the story. The female when she left the nest literally few the 40 miles north to the British Columbia border, crossed over my house, then turned eastward straight down the US / Canada border, occasionally going back and forth over the border as she worked eastward over the coast range, over the Nelson Range and then the Rockies themselves – only then did she turn north and travel up the east side of the Rockies to Great Slave Lake in northern Alberta. She covered about1200 miles in 8 days – and spent the fall months probably hunting squaw fish on the lake. Not something we would have predicted.
I tell you the above because the greetings of our two Blaine eagles, their incredible vocalizations and the intensity of the greeting and mating is perhaps not just a casual meeting, but perhaps one that acknowledges that each has undergone some quite long and arduous adventures. And who does not get a fine greeting on such a return!

David Hancock

Photo posted by Paula on IWS forum

The Dalliance of the Eagles
Skirting the river road, (my forenoon walk, my rest)
Skyward in air a sudden muffled sound, the dalliance of the eagles,
The rushing amorous contact high in space together
The clinching interlocking claws, a living, fierce, gyrating wheel,
Four beating wings, two beaks, a swirling mass tight grappling,
In tumbling turning clustering loops, straight downward falling,
Till o'er the river pois'd, the twain yet one, a moment's lull,
A motionless still balance in the air, then parting, talons loosing,
Upward again on slow-firm pinions slanting, their separate diverse flight,
She hers, he his, pursuing.
--- Walt Whitman, The Dalliance of the Eagles

Last photo by Frank Dutton of the courtesy of Toledo Bend .com

More of the above talon locking courship photos can be seen here


Red said...

Glo, I love your blog. You always have interesting photos, slide shows and articles on eagles. I appreciate all the effort you put in to share all this with us. You are a wonderful person and we all love you.

Just Vicky said...

Well Glo, quite some story and beautifully portrayed. Makes this romantic cry!

Red said...

Glo, You are sure getting into the Christmas spirit, which helps all of us get into the same frame of mind. I appreciate all your work on this blog. Everything you do here is viewed with pleasure. Sorry I have not commeted before but just now figured it out. We all love you.

Anonymous said...

Glo, Another great post on the blog. You are a master at finding entertaining, interesting, and touching stories and facts for us to enjoy. Thanks for all you do for us.

Well, I couldn't sign in, it refused to recognize my password, but wanted to leave this comment anyway.


Costume Lady said...

GLO, what a beautiful, tender description of the bonding of the eagle pair. I have learned so much from your blog. You are One Special Lady.