Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vulture trumps eagle, Osprey trumps me, Nature trumps all..

With the exceptionally low tides during the solstice, shorebirds and scavengers are in abundance.  They stand at water's edge looking for the remains of fish, prawn and crab from the boats, they wade in the shallows picking out small fry and shellfish, and they swoop overhead and dive-bomb head first into the depths, popping back up with a tasty fish in their beaks.  And various species fight, retreat, or cooperate with others, providing entertainment more fascinating than anything you'll find on tv.

A few days ago, fellow shoreline enthusiasts informed me I had 'just missed' the show of a life time - ten or more bald eagles plus a couple of eaglets, all on the shore looking for treats.  It is not unusual to see one or two or even three eagles on my morning strolls with Eddie - in fact, they nest just to the north and just to the south of the sea walk.  But ten?  I was so disappointed to have missed it.

Still,  as I sat on a log watching the herons and gulls, I heard the familiar high-pitched call of the eagle, who proceeded to swoop north and south, back and forth, along the shoreline.  Then I saw why - a young eaglet, possibly on his first flight, was perched on a piling looking rather forlorn and unsure of himself.  He didn't fish, he didn't look about much, he just sat as if to say "NOW what do I do?".

Well, here I am.  All by my lonesome.
What is it mama said I should do?

As I edged a little closer to accommodate the small zoom of my little camera,  he shakily half hopped and half flew to a piece of driftwood and resumed his forlorn stance.

I'm being stalked!  Go away camera lady!

After a minute of this, the parent bird whose cry I had heard fluttered down beside him and gave him a pep talk then flew to the top of a nearby tree to watch the offspring.  Offspring looked around, spotted his parent far up in the tree, sucked in his breath, and took off in a shaky and less-than-straight flight back to the northern nest.  Parent bird watched him go, then slowly followed him home from a distance.

The next morning, there were four eagles scattered along the shoreline. One was amid the gulls on the berm in front of the RV park.  They were all feasting on the remains of a large fish.  Suddenly, three large shadows loomed overhead - turkey vultures!  This is the first time in three years I have seen them on the beach.  As they swooped in, the eagle flapped madly and tried to drag the fish away, but as first one, then two, then three vultures dropped down and like schoolyard bullies started to swagger toward him and shove him first from the side, then from the back, the eagle abandoned his fish and took off.  Vulture trumps eagle - though seems to live in harmony with the gulls.

Well, we told him!  

And yesterday, in a hurry to run some errands, I forgot my camera when I headed out with Eddie - and missed the shot of a lifetime.  As we walked the sea walk, an osprey  dove into the water just yards away - and then, as I watched in amazement, gave me a full ten minute show of hovering, stretching, diving, fishing, flapping, climbing, hovering some more.  He - or she - would suspend itself in the air, flapping the wings repeatedly to hold its place for what seemed like an eternity, much like a child treads water or a helicopter lines up a landing target, then dive down at breakneck speed into the depths.  Then it popped back up, and with feet barely touching the water, body upright,  and head shaking off the drops, stretched wings out full in front of me as if to take a bow.  The bird then ascended again and repeated the performance, not once but five times before catching a fish and flying away.

As I sighed deeply at both the beauty of the show and the missed photographic opportunity, Eddie and I continued our walk, only to see the osprey return once more.  I hurried home, dropped off Eddie, said to heck with the errands, grabbed the big camera, and ran back down.  Alas, he was gone. Osprey trumps Jean.

But all was not lost - for once again I heard the cry of the eagle, and looking up to the trees that tower above the sea walk, saw its source.  And then was treated to yet another show - this time of a crow harassing the eagle.  And that one, despite my somewhat limited skills with the new camera and no tripod at hand and the sun in my eyes, I caught with the lens:

Eagle clawing at bark

Eagle:  Huh?  What's that up there?

Crow:  Scat, eagle - this is MY tree!

Crow:  Go on! Scat! Get outta here!

Crow:  SCRAM!

Eagle:  Okay, okay, I'm leaving!

This time, crow trumped eagle, but I trumped them both.
And nature trumps all.


georgia little pea said...

This is like an episode of National Geo. Are you sure you live in an inhabited part of Canada, and not in the wilderness?

Also a bit scary. Birds and me don't get along so well (if you remember). And those beaks look way more powerful than our noisy miners!

Anonymous said...

What great shots Jean.
I see it's time I spent some more time at the beach. I love watching the birds at low tide. There is always something happening.