Bald Eagle Surprise Returning From Lema Ranch

by Larry on October 18, 2009

Bald Eagle photos by Larry Jordan

I had a great outing at Lema Ranch this morning with some friends from the local Audubon.  The weather was cool and overcast in the early morning and the birds were all out enjoying the day.  I had quickly gathered fourteen species as I headed down the hill into town without even seeing my resident American Kestrel or the recently returning Lewis’s Woodpeckers.  I did see the Wild Turkeys and a large tiding of Yellow-billed Magpies but I was running late and had no time to stop for photo ops.

American Crow

We counted forty two species at Lema Ranch, some of the best birds being a Lincoln Sparrow, Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron and the first flock of Cedar Waxwings I had seen this year.  We also watched as a Pied-billed Grebe choked down a huge fish that I wouldn’t have thought would fit down its throat.  But that ended up not being the most interesting part of my birding day.

On the way back home I added a Great Blue Heron to my list and was hoping to get a decent shot of a Common Raven.  You see with the weather changing I’ve seen several deer on the road lately, some which haven’t made it as they try to cross the highway.  With fresh carnage along side the roadway, I have seen groups of American Crows, the ever present Turkey Vultures, and some Common Ravens, gathering around to clean up.  My plan was to drive by one of these sites slowly enough to snap off a couple of shots of the ravens.

As I approached the scene, I saw many more birds than I had on the way into town six hours earlier.  But before I got close enough, some vehicles came from the other direction and the birds flew.  There were at least thirty Turkey Vultures and several crows taking part in the feast but I didn’t see any Common Ravens.  The birds flew up into a huge circle and several came back down to rest on the fence posts along the road.

I turned the car around and passed by on the opposite side of the road to see if I could see any ravens.  Nothing.  Another (legal) U-turn and I was back on the side of the road with the deer and the Turkey Vultures where I decided to slowly pull off and park, and watch.  A few vultures took off and when I turned to watch them, that’s when I saw the Bald Eagle.  It was headed toward my parked car when it pulled up and landed on snag about 100 feet away!  One of the Turkey Vultures landed on the same snag, as the Bald Eagle looked on, unmoved.

I was in the midst of photographing the Bald Eagle when my cell phone rang with a message that I was being called back into work.  The best image I got was the one you see at the top of the post.  I was hoping to stay long enough to catch an in-flight shot of the eagle but today was not the day.  All I got as I turned around to pass the deer again was a photo of the bravest Turkey Vulture of the group, still sitting on the fence post.

A good birding day!

Wanna see more great bird photos?  Bird Photography Weekly!

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