A bald eagle in her nest. Photo courtesy of Peter Rasberry, who captured the bird with a 500 millimietre prime lens.

Eagles and swallows

By Lynda Shadbolt

It’s Earth Day and Jim and I are at our friend’s cottage. We spent the day outside walking and looking for birds. Spring migration is underway and new species arrive daily.
Jim and Peter are like kids on Christmas morning each time they spot a bird they haven’t seen yet this year. They are delighted again, and again, and again. It is a perfect way to spend a day. Quiet, peaceful and in beauty.
Two moments from the day stood out for me. In the afternoon we hiked out to a lake to search for a bald eagle’s nest that has been in a huge pine tree, very high up, for years and years. We all have our binoculars and my friend has a big scope. A bald eagles nest is the largest of any bird in North America and is called an aerie.
A typical nest will range from 1.8 to 3 meters (six to 10 feet) in diameter and about 1.8 to 3 meters (six to 10 feet) high. Some are much larger. Immediately we can see that there is a female eagle sitting on the nest. Her white head and wings are easy to identify. To spot her feels the same as when you are lucky enough to see a moose. A sense of awe is the only way to describe it. We watch her for a while, and then a male arrives and lands in the nest with her. We can see him moving around for a few moments and then he flies down and lands on a branch overlooking the lake.

Having a good scope allows us to get a some really good views of him. We watch for a while and eventually leave them in peace. It is an image I won’t forget. My second moment of the day was going for a walk after dinner.
So many birds have arrived in our area and as we walk along the road hundreds of tree swallows fly in a wave like pattern above us. We walk the length of the road and the birds just keep coming and going. The birders in our group tell us that these birds just arrived from the southern US or Central America. “Migrating tree swallows can form enormous flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They gather about an hour before sunset and form a dense cloud above a roost site (such as a cattail marsh or grove of small trees), swirling around like a living tornado.

With each pass, more birds drop down until they are all settled on the roost.”
I find it fascinating that there is always something new to learn and observe every time we go out. Our day ends with a rousing game of Sibley Backyard Birding Bingo. It is a game for bird lovers and bingo lovers (that includes so many people in our county)!!!
I highly recommend it for a night of family fun. The perfect ending to Earth Day. We are grateful.