Eagle Sightings 2011

I am a bird lover, particularly of raptors or birds of prey. Owls are my favorite birds, but because they are generally nocturnal I hear a lot more of them than I see. Eagles on the other hand are another story. They are a symbol of our nation, they are beautiful creatures, and I get the opportunity to see them pretty frequently.

Only a decade ago I remember placing on my own personal bucket list how I would love to see a bald eagle in the wild. I had seen them in captivity, but never in the wild. Over the last decade (since moving to Florida), I have had the opportunity to see more eagles than I could count. Each one is just as exciting as the first. Because of this, I decided that for 2011 I would count and document the number of times I see eagles. I will do this so I can look back on the year and be amazed at each opportunity I have had to behold this majestic creature.

January 22, 2011. Lisa and I visited the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge just south of Tallahassee. What an amazing place! Not only can you see the St. Marks lighthouse, and numerous alligators, but there is a whole assortment of birds to watch. Pelicans, grebes, hawks, egrets, herons, and on and on are all here. This NWR became one of my favorite places in all of Florida to visit, even though I have only been their twice (the others are the Everglades, St. Augustine, and the Space Coast).

Near the end of our visit, we decided to hike a pretty long trail. At the very beginning of the trail I saw something I have never seen before – an eagle hunting. We parked our car, and started down a series of trails when I saw an eagle dive into a pond. As we neared the pond, the eagle flew out with a fish in its talons. That was one of the most exciting moments I have had in nature.

Later, after we had walked about 5 miles of the trail, and were heading back to our vehicle, we saw a beautiful eagle perched in a tree. This eagle was totally at peace with the world, and watching it all go by. It was not as exciting as the first eagle, but we were able to photograph it.

That is 1 day, and 2 eagles. Not a bad haul.

February 20, 2011. I did not see any eagles on this day, but I did see two close cousins – Osprey. We were riding with Lisa’s family to Little Talbot Island near Jacksonville, and I saw two osprey on two separate light poles watching the traffic go by. Osprey are as exciting for me to see as eagles, which is why I mention it here.

February 21, 2011. We were riding in I-95 in Jacksonville. We were returning to Lisa’s brother Andrew’s house after visiting the Budweiser brewery in Jax. The brewery is a blast. You get a free tour, and at the end you get free beer.

After our tour and beer we were heading back to the house, and as often happens I saw two eagles at a moment I did not expect them. One was following the other in flight. They came from the tree tops which flank the highway, and were just coasting along. Neither was very high off the ground, only just above the trees, and since they were not in a hurry, we were able to get a nice glimpse of them in flight. That was the cherry on top of an already great day.

Eagle Count, 2011 – 4

March 11, 2011.  Lisa and I drove to St. Pete to be with her cousins who lost their grandmother this week.  You always hope for better circumstances to meet with family, but you also take the opportunities you have.  We drove through the Big Bend Region, Nature Coast, and Sun Coast of Florida; many parts I used to drive when I was in marketing out of Gainesville.  A lot of memories are attached to these areas, so I was a bit nostalgic.

The thing that always gets me about any kind of experiences in life is that we seem to be caught off guard by the best experiences.  Whenever I drive in Florida I keep one eye on the sky, and one on the road, just in case an eagle might appear somewhere.  This day was no different.  The surprise came in Dixie County, in a little town called Tennille, where we were just coasting down US 19, when an eagle jumped out from behind a bush right near our car, circled around us and the road, and landed back in the grass where it was probably feeding.  We were closer to an eagle in the wild than I have ever been.  The crazy thing was, we almost missed it, because we weren’t looking in the grass for a bird, and we almost hit it!  It was an unusual sighting, but very satisfying.

Later as we were driving, we decided to take a lunch break.  We saw a sign for a state park, and decided that would be a great place to eat our lunch, and appreciate the Florida country-side.  After taking a wrong turn, we decided to turn around at a Jewish community center.  As I turned into the parking lot, I thought I saw a white head on top of a bird off in the distance.  Sure enough, we saw an eagle perched on an old, dead tree.  It was perched on a branch, near a nest.  Two surprises for the price of one.  Two more encounters with eagles in one day, and neither one expected.  Life is good.

Eagle Count: 6 (and 1 nest).