Saturday, September 10, 2011

bald eagle plunging

bald eagle plunging
talons into the river,
clutching a brook trout

As we drift down the Upper Iowa River, we glimpse several bald eagles flying downstream. One of them plunges into the river and snags a brook trout with its talons, grasping the slippery fish with the spicules on its toes. What an amazing sight! Dan tells us about a friend of his in Alaska who watched an eagle dive into the water and disappear, apparently pulled under by a large salmon. Eagles are strong swimmers, but sometimes they do drown. Another eagle flies off, mysteriously trailing a sprig of black walnut leaves in its talons. It almost looks like the image of the bald eagle on the national seal, clutching an olive branch with one claw and arrows in the other. We startle another large bird from the low trees along the river's edge, but this one does not have the white head and tail of an adult bald eagle. When it lands in a tall dead tree we can tell from its dark brown plumage and nearly black bill that it is a juvenile eagle. In a few years the young eagle's head and tail will gradually turn white and its beak yellow. Eagles are long-lived birds, up to 30 years in the wild. As raptors, they eat many kinds of creatures, both live and dead, but their favorite prey is fish, so they are usually found near water. However, I have seen one sitting in a tree just up the road from our home, with the nearest river miles away. 

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