Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bald Eagle Streak

There is a part in The Big Year near the beginning of the book where Al Levantin sees a Bald Eagle during the first day of the year. His comments were to the effect of other birders may be jaded with Bald Eagles, but he thinks they are great, with a certain subtle sense of superiority because he still appreciates them.
Bald Eagles at Heinz NWR, 9/14/2014 by Damon Orsetti
It was a small part of the beginning, but it felt odd to me for two reasons. First, almost every birder I've run into (including hard-core listers) still do appreciate Bald Eagles. Hell, they appreciate all birds (including the damn European Starlings). But the other reason is that, while many of us appreciate and like Bald Eagles, we realize that seeing them is not really a big deal in terms of likelihood.

They are big and awesome, but I see them more often that I see Merlins or Broad-winged Hawks, and probably by a factor of 10. And compared to all the wonderful warbler migrants? Bald Eagles are much more commonly seen than most of those as well.

So while it may come across as jadedness, it is actually just that we aren't surprised to see them. We see them and like them, but we see them all the time.

Seriously. All the time.

Immature Bald Eagle flying over Rose Tree Park Hawk Watch, 10/9/2014 by Damon Orsetti
Yesterday was a disappointing day for me. Not because I didn't get to sleep in (I have kids; I never sleep in), and not because the Orioles lost (down 3 games to 0 now; they are done). Nope. It was because I didn't see a Bald Eagle. That seems odd, right? Didn't I say that birders see them all the time?

Yeah, so I didn't see one yesterday, after seeing at least one every day for eleven days in a row.

Now, this includes areas that have them around, including a couple of Hawk Watches and a couple of Big Sits, but they are still everywhere. I've seen them this past year fly over my house, over my kids' elementary school, over the high school I went to, over a shopping center while I was with my son, over every place I ever seem to work or volunteer, while I've been on vacation, and while I've been driving in four different states.

They are everywhere.

Immature Bald Eagle flying over Heinz NWR, 9/12/2014 by Damon Orsetti

I've seen them the other day while sitting at a desk at work. I casually pointed them out and a half dozen people ran out to get a better look. I stayed seated.

I guess that looked like a jaded birder, but I had a good view from the desk (hell, I spotted it before anyone else who was standing near the windows) and it wasn't even my first or second sighting of the day.

Immature Bald Eagle flying over DuPont Environmental Education Center, 9/12/2014 by Damon Orsetti
I once was sitting at a table during training at my job, listening to a speaker, when I saw a Bald Eagle out the window harassing an Osprey, only to have the Osprey get above the eagle and turn the tables on it. I continued to take notes on the presentation.

And this is not a bad thing.

Bald Eagle at DuPont Environmental Education Center, 9/13/2014 by Damon Orsetti
If birders or any naturalist doesn't lose their mind upon seeing a Bald Eagle, then that is a great sign that they aren't super rare anymore. Once Bald Eagles become commonplace birds, then we know we have done some things right for conservation.

And I am fully aware of this, such that when anyone ever asks me why I don't think it is a rare thing to see a Bald Eagle, I use that as chance to teach them about pesticides and habitat loss and how we, as humans who can make important decisions, can actually make a big change that helps the environment. How not everything is great, but things can (and have) gotten better when we make wise decisions.

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