Going to confess, we ‘got outta Dodge’ before the last snow storm hit the mid-Atlantic region last couple days. We are now camping in Florida, and immediately the first day here I’ve had a grand time photographing some ‘newbies’ for my bird life list. PLUS, it’s 25-30 degrees warmer than the Chesapeake Bay area which sure feels good!!
But first, I gotta do this last ‘home’ post before I start showing my Florida birds.
Taking the next-to-last load of bags to our truck, I heard an Eagle calling and looked up to see an adult Eagle pass overhead. Always makes me smile when I see and hear one, ditto this time. Oh boy, am I going to miss my local bird activity while I’m gone, I was thinking.
We went back up to get the final bags (‘final’ bags always include my camera bags, just in case, you know?) and prepare to lock up. I took a quick glance out my balcony window as I started closing my verticals; and, lo and behold, that Eagle was landing on our Osprey platform.
I’ve been waiting for this moment all season! Every year I get at least a few different days of one or both of them on the platform and so far this season, nothing while I’ve been around.
I quickly grabbed my camera. (Remember, final bags….this time it paid off!) Whew, if we had left 10 minutes sooner, I would have missed this opportunity!
It was sun & clouds, I had to make sure I got at least a few shots when the sun peeked out. And so, yes, the Eagle kept us from leaving for another 20 minutes. It was worth it!
He kept looking down, probably seeing small fish around the pole….not worth his time, ha!
A feather shake-down!
Chatting with the mate over on CBEC’s tree across Marshy Creek.
A “Goodbye Eagle-Eye” to Donna
Yes, I did get a lot of direct stares as the last one. I’m thinking, surely he was giving me his “goodbye eagle-eye” then! At least it sounds good, huh? hee hee
What a beautiful gift to receive before departing. It felt like it was meant to be!
It’s almost a guarantee to find several Double-crested Cormorants sitting on the pilings and rocks along the Kent Narrows channel at Mears Marina year-round.
The Double-crested Cormorant’s body is primarily black whereas the juveniles have white from under their chin down their chest and belly.
This juvenile was bold to sit up the highest and out the farthest from the rest of the group. He certainly appeared to be enjoying the late afternoon sun from his standpoint.
As I photographed some of the Cormorants on the rocks, I could see an approaching fishing boat was causing an uneasy feeling amongst the group. I went back to the juvenile in my viewer and just caught him leaving his piling.
No one else took flight, so this teenager made a u-turn and came right back but settled a little closer to his group, where he felt a little safer I’m sure. :-)
(Sorry for the long absence, too much going on on top of me being a bit ‘under the weather…feeling much better now!)
The day before the blizzard a few weeks ago, we had a small flock of Gadwalls (dabbling ducks) arrive to safe harbor in our community cove through the storm that I posted on. This flock has continued to come back to frequent our community cove in the mornings to feed. Having only ever seen a lone pair around our riprap in prior winters, it has been an ongoing thrill to see them continue their visit around us this season.
These ducks migrate from Alaska, Canada, and the Great Plains to our region for the winter.
It was equally rewarding to capture the Gadwalls in flight!
And on a day here & there, they will return late afternoon to hang around to enjoy the sunset.
Gadwalls in silhouette
What a thrill indeed it is to have a migratory species feel safe to hang around for a while!
For the past couple months, the year-round resident American Bald Eagles around Chesapeake Bay have been busy building/strengthening their nests as well as bonding with their mate. This is true with our CBEC Eagles!
American Bald Eagles mate for life. As most birds, it is the male that works hard on impressing his lady. Our CBEC pair love flying together, circling high in the sky around each other, as if gracefully dancing. Mr Eagle will even play chase with his girl, trying to catch & give her a little love tap with his wing or body, as the Mrs is taunting “catch me if you can” while trying to keep away from him. You can tell they are having a wonderful, fun time! He will even try to impress by bringing her food or leave it on Lippincott’s Channel Marker and she will come to eat it. He’s definitely at her beck and call, I’d say.
More recently, several times I just happen see the CBEC Eagle pair mating on Lippincott’s Channel Marker in Marshy Creek. I tell them, “Hey, get a room!” ;-)
Of course, it happens so darn fast, it is hard to photograph, let alone try to video. They just don’t give you any warning when they’re going to do it.
I had lucked out getting some images couple weeks ago catching them “in the act” but just couldn’t portray anything with those for a post to let you see/feel the action.
And then we have the day after the blizzard…..I watched the male Eagle land on Lippincott’s Channel Marker where his beautiful lady was perched and chattering at him.
And just as quick, it happened again! I was hand-holding and had no time to lock my camera on my tripod, so I locked my arms & stance and just held down my shutter button firing away until it exhausted my camera’s battery to my memory card as it tried to keep up.
And immediately after my fire-off stopped, they stopped. A whole 20-25 seconds.
I was able to capture 23 images in that 15-20 second firing. Wanting to portray them in a video, I watched a YouTube video last night and voila! Here’s my attempt at my first photo video.
P.S. Notice the Tundra Swans in the background, oblivious to what’s going on, lol.
CBEC American Bald Eagles mating on Lippincott’s Channel Marker…..
Eagles can also mate in the sky. To get the opportunity to watch a pair as they entwine their talons and fall precariously to the ground, breaking away just in time, is extraordinary. This act is called “cartwheeling”. I have not seen our CBEC Eagles do this this season, but here’s some photos from a previous year to show this act in the air. I cropped too much for a printable photo but wanted to let you see them more up-close.
By late January (the lower Chesapeake Bay) to late February/early March (my Chesapeake Bay area and above), the female will lay their eggs that will take approximately 32-36 days to incubate.
So it appears the CBEC Eagles may have another month of bonding. And they say practice makes perfect, right?!!
Whether on a perch or cartwheeling, yes, there is Eagle love in the Chesapeake Bay air!
The day after the blizzard, I was amassed with photo ops of the birds who had survived in our cove and were now happily feeding on a beautiful, bright day. Not too much beats a day like that from your balcony!
Today it was a different story. It was mostly cloudy, and our cove was frozen over as well as Marshy Creek. Only a few Ring-billed Gulls were sitting on the ice. The Kent Narrows channel was still flowing. No other birds were in sight except with binoculars.
By early afternoon, the sun popped out here and there for a bit. The gulls were still there. I think they were wondering where’d the party go and when would it return. Anyway, with the lighting and ice, they made for some nice ops.
Later, I saw a few ducks dropping down in our cove. It was the Gadwells again! This was exciting, I had never seen such a large flock of Gadwells anywhere before so their return from yesterday is pretty awesome. I missed capturing their landing and sliding as they skidded across the ice. I wondered if they knew it was going to be ice.
They made their way to the gulls who were still hanging out.
I’m sure in the above photo the Gadwells were asking the gulls, “Where’s the party?”
The ice began to melt and move in patches with the tides by late afternoon; and small rafts began to appear in them, mostly Ruddy Ducks.
Oh, and the Tundra Swans returned and were deep up in Marshy Creek where they spent the afternoon snoozing on the ice. Except for the boss who kept watch.
Now let’s get to what this post was to be about and enjoy another American Bald Eagle fly-by!
The day after the blizzard the pair of CBEC Eagles that live across Marshy Creek were out and about most of the day within my viewing range, along with all the other hungry birds.
Late afternoon, one of the pair finally left their tree. This time he appeared to be coming directly my way….
(This is where a bird photographer’s adrenaline begins to pump….)
I told myself to ‘keep breathing’ while I took several photos similar to this first one as he continued his path to me.
That dot in the background is a male Ruddy Duck in case you wanted to know! :-)
As he made his way, he started looking down at all the Ruddy Ducks in the water. I thought, oh no……
Well, for some reason, he decided it wasn’t worth the effort and kept on flying right on past me. I reminded myself to start breathing again….
Unfortunately, he flew right into the sunlight, so I had to lighten the next photos.
Obviously, he was on a mission of other sorts instead of dinner.
What a beauty! I never, ever tire of seeing one more Eagle and taking on the challenge of capturing such a majestic bird.
Tomorrow’s post is to be more on this pair of CBEC Eagles. Love is in the air! ❤
We survived Blizzard Jonas! Approximately 12″ fell here in Grasonville, Maryland. Winds that were 30-50 mph caused drifts as high as 5′. We were lucky to have no power outages or damage for which I am thankful.
Wildlife has the instinct to know when a storm is coming. They prepare by eating extra and finding a sheltered area to hunker down until the storm passes.
With Marshy Creek freezing over and the impending storm, birds that normally shelter in the creek’s cove could not do so. When it does freeze over, they will tend to hang closer to our community coves and riprap. And that means I get the opportunity to see birds up closer with my binoculars, and maybe get some great photos.
This time did not disappoint!
Canada Geese & pair Hooded Mergansers
Canada Geese and Female Hooded Merganser
Hooded Mergansers (extra exciting visitors!)
Canada Geese, Gadwells, American Wigeons
American Wigeons (another extra exciting visitor!)
Gadwells (another exciting visitor!)
Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Gadwells
The blizzard finally arrived and I mostly stayed inside, but snuck in a couple shots here and there.
American Bald Eagle on Lippincott’s Channel Marker
Cove off to my left
The blizzard finally moved on late last night, and this morning I awoke to a winter wonderland. It was a beautiful sunrise AND moon set!
Sunrise over Marshy Creek after blizzard
Moon set over our community cove and birds
Within a couple hours, everything was glistening, the skies were clear, the strong winds had disappeared.
Our Osprey platform patiently waiting for a new pair to arrive March!
All of the visitors yesterday made roll call this morning!
Tundra Swan, Ruddy Ducks, a Redhead, Scaup
Ruddy Ducks, Scaup, Canvasback
This lone Ruddy Duck came right up to our riprap which is unusual, I think he just wanted to say Hi!
Can’t forget the Mallards!
My favorite pair of resident Eagles have been very visible since the storm, perching on Lippincott’s channel marker.
Whenever an Eagle took flight, they made the ducks nervous, causing them to take flight.
Two Buffleheads take flight with Ruddy Ducks – Eagle Scare!
We also have a juvenile Eagle that I see often and try to capture. Got him this time!
Juvenile American Bald Eagle
The Tundra Swans were amazing today. They love Marshy Creek but are very skittish on being close to us.
Tundra Swan Fly-By for Mrs. Eagle
There were several small groups of Tundra Swans, some were families.
Tundra Swan Family – the parents were always on both sides of them to protect them
Gadwells take flight over a lone Tundra Swan
Another Tundra Swan family passing by our Osprey nest platform
Airborn rather quickly for such a large bird!
As the sun was setting, a dozen adult Tundra Swans also passed our Osprey nest platform. I was way off on my settings so I lost all my captures. :-(
BUT……I did get them as they headed into the sunset! :-)
As you can see, I had a couple fun-filled days of photo ops! I have more to share, but I think I’ll spare you those until next time. I have already overwhelmed you enough for this post.
The Blizzard of 2016 is bearing down on us as I write this. Winds are up to 50 mph with snow accumulations of possibly 24″. We may have over 12″ already.
We are all hunkered down, staying warm…..and writing blogs, not shoveling! Right? :-)
The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC) is the island/peninsula across Marshy Creek from my balcony. It is a 510-acre preserve under conservation easement consisting of trails, beach, and ponds; and it is an enjoyable local hot-spot for birders year-round.
Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center from my balcony
Immediately driving onto the peninsula property across the marsh, there has been an active American Bald Eagle nest for years. It has stayed well hidden within the loblolly pines, but I was happy to find it is finally becoming visible to visitors because of its growing size.
Eagle nests used for multiple years can reach enormous dimensions, typically 5-6 feet in diameter & 3 feet tall! A famous Ohio nest used for 34 years measured almost 9 feet in diameter, close to 12 feet tall, and weighed over 2 tons, Another St. Petersburg, Florida, nest was 9 1/2 feet in diameter & 20 feet tall. That’s a big nest!
This time of year, it is easy to find the mated pair perching to the right of their above home.
I had several cars stop and ask what was I seeing when taking the above photos. When I showed them the Eagles and their nest, I made quite a few people very happy! One gentleman told me there are four active Eagle nests on CBEC’s property. I know where two are now. :-)
The observation blind is a favorite spot of mine to hang out. It overlooks a pond and an active Osprey platform that is directly behind the left of the blind.
This time I found a lonely Great Egret who saw me first.
There were Canada Geese and Tundra Swans arriving to settle into Marshy Creek.
An American Robin all puffed up in the cold air….
A Brown-headed Nuthatch who was faster than me and my focus.
A few grey squirrels were running around, finally captured one that stood still long enough.
I need help with ID confirmation on the next bird, he was at a distance so if I crop too much more, I lose any clarity. My blogging friend, Kathy at BackyardBirdNerd captures awesome close-ups of many birds including the Yellow-rumped Warbler that she recently posted, which I believe is what is in my next photo. Or is he a Pine Warbler? Either would be a newbie for me, but I’m leaning to the Yellow-rumped…. Kathy? :-)
Update: Per Kathy, it’s a Yellow-rumped Warbler!
The last visit I was excited to finally get better photos of the year-round resident, the Hairy Woodpecker, so he gets extra space this post.
Both of my visits were short yet fulfilling to be one with nature.
A visit to CBEC is always worth it.