Wed 31 Dec 2008
Now here’s one incredible local Loudoun backyard birding adventure! All from the comfort of Betty and Bill’s home in Leesburg….not one, but TWO Bald Eagles came right in to their deck to fight over a bone! Here’s Bill’s amazing story. It happened Sunday (Dec 28th). Pretty cool! Thanks so much to Betty and Bill for sharing this!
We were sitting in the solarium watching the bird action on our deck as we do every morning AND being entertained by a couple of Turkey Vultures playing with the wind as they looked for breakfast. Betty says something like, “You know, how do we know we’re not thinking these are vultures but they are actually eagles. I reply, “Well, we can usually see the red faces on the Turkey Vultures but you might be right about the Black Vultures. They could be Golden Eagles, but neither of us has ever actually seen a Golden Eagle. Why don’t you look it up in our book.”
We always keep two excellent “birding” books on the couch in the solarium: the Smithsonian Handbook “Birds of North America, Eastern Region” by F. J. Alsop III and the National Audubon Society, “Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region” by John Bull and John Farrand, Jr. So, Betty turned to page 183 of the Smithsonian Handbook (it has better pictures and is a little more user-friendly) and she starts reading to me about Golden Eagles: That they’re pretty rare in the East, the beak is noticeably different . . . “bulkier, more massive” than the vulture’s”
. . . and then she says (this is when it starts getting “spooky”) . . . “but it also says that the juvenile Bald Eagle is similar and, maybe, that’s what I’ve seen, just maybe.” And it’s almost at exactly that moment that I’m looking about due north out our windows and I see what I think, initially, is two vultures flying side-by-side about 100 yards out heading directly at our windows, just slightly above our eye level.
My thought was: “That’s a strange flight pattern for vultures.” Now they are 75 yards out, coming fast and I see their pure white hooded heads and massive yellow beaks and I think: “Oh, my God, those are Bald Eagles!” Betty is still reading out loud and I’m momentarily SPEECHLESS.
Finally, I stutter, “Betty, look up, here come two Bald Eagles!” I’m still in shock as she catches just a quick glance as one flares for a landing on our deck’s overhead trellis–we are now both looking up at his (or her) slightly yellow feet and blackish feathered leggings and that’s all we can see–and the other one had turned very sharply to the right and down toward the ground to scoop-up the rib-eye bone we had put out for the crows about an hour earlier.
Immediately, the one on the trellis took off after his mate(?) and they engaged in aerial combat with each other for possession of the bone while also fending off several not-so-happy crows. After a few marvelous minutes, the eagles flew off to the south and the crows returned to “Old Abe,” the beautiful sycamore adjacent to the deck. At that point all of us–the crows and the humans–were wondering, “What a way to start the day!”