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Wednesday, February 1, 2012


 Yesterday I was driving along the river near town, and saw a truck stopped, taking photos.  I looked in that direction and saw a Bald Eagle sitting along the river bank, posing.  Made me think about Eagles and Kids.  The eagle he was photographing was one of two that have been wintering here for the past 5 years.  I see them every winter.  The year before they showed up, I got a call on a sick eagle upstream about 10 miles.  Usually, those calls mean the eagle has eaten too much, and can not fly. That is very common. Give them a day and they take off just fine.  Gluttons...but then, who can turn down a good dinner?  I'm the same way, especially around Thanksgiving.

But this eagle was visibly sick.  It could not stand on its own nor hold up its head.  Normally, when handling eagles, one must take care not to get a talon in the arm or hand, or a beak in the eye.  These birds are big, but not too bad to handle, compared to owls. Nothing is worse than an owl.  (Whomever came with the  old one-line response to the question: "Are you Serious?" : "Serious as a tree full of Owls" - knew what he was talking about.)

But this eagle was big- and sick.  I think it was a female, due to its size. Females are larger than males.  And this one was large. The wingspan was the same as the width of a queen size bed. How do I know that? 

Well, I wrapped the bird in a blanket, tied its feet together with rope, picked it up and laid it in the pickup - it took up most of the back seat.  Home it came, and immediately Lynette - the horse lady in the family, fell in love with it, and begged me to let her vet it until it either died or recovered.  Since it was Friday, and I could not get the bird to the rehabber until at least Tuesday, it was either that or put it in a large box somewhere and wait for whatever would happen.  She insisted on taking the bird to her bedroom to care for it.  She consulted with the vet, and what she did in there with the bird is not known, but she spent hours with it.  Not much change until Sunday night.  In the middle of the night, there came some very strange sounds from the bedroom- and an excited call: "Dad, dad!"  I ran in to find the Eagle had come undone from his shackles that kept its wings folded and his feet together, and was dancing around the room, hopping on and off the bed.  Lynette was squealing gleefully "She's alive, she's alive!"  The bird was sitting on the bed, wings outstretched, staring at me defiantly as I came through the door!  Oh great.... now what?   Bald Eagle in the bedroom.  Live, angry, defiant, and capable killing machine bald eagle in the bedroom. In the BEDROOM???!!!!!!

Well, with the help of a blanket and a stocking over the eyes, we were able to subdue the creature.  By that afternoon it was unmistakably obvious that the bird was recovered, and hungry.  And still angry about it's current condition.  So, we took it out to the South Platte River and Lynette released it.  We have a video of this monstrous bird flying out of her grasp, climbing, and making a circle then landing in a nearby tree.  There it stayed for a short while, then flew up the river.  We watched it for the rest of the winter.  Since that winter, it, or what I assume to be the same bird, has returned to this stretch of river, with its mate.  In fact, last year these birds stayed around until May.   That is very interesting, since Eagles nest in the early spring, and we've never had Balds nesting this far north.  Apparently, they did nest here, and I will watch for a third bird to show up this winter...the fruit of a successful nesting endeavor. 

I did not stop and tell the tourist, who was taking pictures of the bird, the story behind the little secret that we shared with the bird, but I did call Lynette and tell her that Baldy was back.   

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