Our local pair of Bald Eagles share responsibility for incubating the eggs, the first of which was laid around December 9 or 10. The female usually sits on them overnight and takes turns with the male during the day. On the morning of December 27 the male (Pride) took over incubation duties and his mate (Jewel) stretched her wings and circled overhead:
First one, and then a flock of Tree Swallows joined her. They did not attack or disturb her, but just floated around in circles with her:
One may ponder the reason for this behavior. The swallows are migrants from the north and they have no territory to defend. Did the swallows perceive a threat? If so, there was no sign of this, as they glided effortlessly with the large bird and rotated together, gaining altitude before departing. Perhaps heat from the pavement of the roadway created a local updraft, and all simply took advantage of it. For me, the uplifting beauty of nature was a sight to behold and enjoy.
A Turkey Vulture also rode on the rising currents. Its wingspan is about 6 feet, about a foot less than that of the female eagle. Its tail is long but its neck is short. From a distance it may almost appears headless. Its silvery flight feathers contrast with the darker leading edge of the wing:
Flocks of Black Vultures were also present. Smaller than Turkey Vultures, they look "front-heavy" with short tails and they extend their necks in flight.
Black Vultures have whitish wingtips and relatively shorter wings (4.5 to 5.5 feet) and must flap often and strongly to gain altitude:
Sometimes an immature Bald Eagle may join a flock of vultures. Turkey Vultures have an exceptionally keen sense of smell. Until the eagle becomes fully competent as a hunter, it will often feed on carrion. A meal of roadkill may be its last, as many are struck by motor vehicles. This is a juvenile (first year) bird, as evidenced by its dark bill and bulging secondary wing feathers. Its head and tail will turn almost completely white when it is about four years old:
A few times I have identified a Short-tailed Hawk flying with vultures. The association may allow the hawk to escape detection before it drops like a stone to catch an unwary bird:
Fish Crows often loaf in the vicinity of the eagle nest, which if left unguarded may provide a meal of leftover prey, or worse, an egg or nestling. They can be distinguished from hawks and vultures by the fact that they almost never soar, beating their wings constantly as if "rowing a boat:"
We have enjoyed deliciously cool and clear mornings out on our local wetlands. Still air sets up beautiful reflections. From our shadowed vantage point on the lakeside marsh, we watch as the sun, rising in a cloudless sky, touches the pine bank on the opposite shore:
Mottled Ducks bask in full morning light:
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