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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
June 26, 2014
Salish Sea
Pacific Northwest

I go outside every day to see what's happening in nature. Usually the natural world appears pretty quiet, or "uneventful", because the drama is subtle or unfolding slowly or tiny and hidden from me. But sometimes things like this happen:

eagle tangle 1

What I saw, managed to photograph and possible explanation below...

(All photos by me. In to enlarge)

My resident pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) have been very scarce since spring until this last week. Now they're back - flying together, fishing in the bay, perching on tall firs on the several local headlands, flying from one bay to another. Really great seeing them again, most every day, and hearing them calling.

eagle tangle 2

It's likely they've been preoccupied with nesting, although I can't know whether they did this year and I don't know where their nest is. In Washington, eagles lay their eggs in mid-March. Hatching occurs toward the end of April and the eaglets fledge in early to mid-July. Two 1-year-olds and two 2-year-old youngsters live in the area here, and I've seen a 4th-year kid too occasionally. These all may be eaglets raised in previous seasons, since young eagles don't go too far from where they were born.  Eagles are on their own by the fall of their first year, and they will be driven away from the parents' nest if they get too close, just like intruding ravens, gulls, crows and hawks. But I've read that the adult pair is more tolerant of immature eagles in their territory than other adults. On this day, I was floating in my kayak watching the adults and one 2-year-old youngster fishing in the bay, swooping down onto the surface and making grabs, sometimes successfully. It's an incredible sight, seeing these huge graceful powerful beautiful birds so close.

Then another adult eagle glided into the bay from the east, scoping out the action. Instantly, one of the resident adults flew up at it, screeching.

eagle tangle 3

eagle tangle 4
eagle tangle 5
eagle tangle 1
eagle tangle 6
eagle tangle 8
eagle tangle 9
eagle tangle 10

All this happened in 3 seconds, according to the time stamps on my photos. The two plummeted straight down behind a small island, out of my view.

eagle tangle 11

In a moment, one eagle flew off west, the other up to a nearby fir. Both were apparently unhurt by the altercation.

eagle tangle 12

eagle tangle 13

Early in the mating season courting pairs of eagles will tangle and drop from a great height (sometimes called "cartwheeling"). That's not what this was. It appears to be an attack by the resident eagle, defending its nest territory against an intruder.

Such moments remind me how every day is a matter of survival for wildlife. We humans take so much for granted in our lives.


What's up in nature in your neighborhood? What does summer bring where you live?

"Spotlight on Green News & Views" will be posted every Saturday and Wednesday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Birds and Birdwatching and Shutterbugs.

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