Sunday, January 20, 2013

Eagle Days

We picked up three Chinese students and the six of us went to Sauk Prairie, where we arrived too late for the first bus tour--and too late to sign up for the second one too.

I brought 3 binoculars (should have taken care to clean the eyepieces of one), and we tried to see the eagles along the river, but so many other people had shown up by 10 that the eagles were staying safely far on the other side of the river. Even the gulls weren't all that close.

But back at the high school (the center of activities) Eldest Son and I took in a talk on "Digiscope photography" (get the best scope you can and even a point-and-shoot can work well), and a lively raptor show by a fellow from the University of Minnesota . When the eagle started flapping the tarp protecting the stage floor started to fly away.

But the highlight was the eagle release at the beach by the VFW. Some birds were injured by attacking cars which challenged their right to road kill, others got lead poisoning (extra-strong stomach acids plus low body weight mean tiny bullet fragments turn toxic), another got tangled in a rabbit snare and nearly starved. About half survive and are released.

The eagles were carried (without raptor gauntlets!) one by one to a viewing stand by the shore. The lady carried each like a baby, on its back with the talons held at the "wrist", and they seemed remarkably docile faced with such a huge crowd of potential predators.

An Indian with an eagle wing fan delivered a blessing for each eagle. Perhaps next year they can rope in a Franciscan for the job.

After show and Q&A around the crowd, "He sees the water and wants to be there!" and as the bird opened his wings a bit he was given a little toss, and then he really unfurled--an amazing amount of wing for a 10-pound package. The first eagle perched on the other side of the river and watched us for about 15 minutes, and then flew down into the river for his first bath in over a year.

The last bird was a little dubious about heading back into the wild again (he'd been found by an airport; possibly looking for a little assistance?), but after about 5 minutes decided to lift up his head and stare out over the river. He was the only one to fly back to our shore, and circle overhead for a while--maybe he likes people?

We were standing near the van that brought the eagles, so we got to see them up close (but no touching).

Gorgeous birds, wonderful flying--and talons of steel and beaks to rip with. I think about Isaiah 65:25 sometimes. Fill the earth and subdue it; take a wild and dangerous world and tame it. Let wolves become dogs which are wolves and more than wolves. Was 65:25 supposed to have been our job?

Other little tidbits: to treat lead poisoning cost $2K for the meds along (not including rehab). The little tracking transmitters cost $5K (we got a little squib about the effects of lowering taxes at that point) so they don't typically equip birds with them--which is perhaps just as well, given the results of the penguin study! They've a male eagle which has helped care for over 32 young rescue eagles. Eagles at the wintering site aren't territorial--at the nesting sites they are.

I wonder if we've studied falcon form and feather structure when they stoop, since I suspect they'd be pretty optimized for minimal air resistance.

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