Two weekends back, Karen and I made our fall eagle walk up to the headwaters of the branch of Indian Head Creek that flows into Cherry Lake. A few years ago we discovered that for several days each October eagles like to roost at the big beaver pond at the head of the tributary. They settle there by evening and sit in the big poplars that surround the pond. We have seen as many as fourteen roosting there, a mix of adult and sub-adult bald eagles.
This year, well before we arrived at the pond we began seeing young eagles circling low over the valley. They stayed with us for twenty minutes or more, making passes almost directly overhead, their tawny breast feathers catching the last gold of the sun. Once our necks got sore we lay down in the tall grass in the coulee bottom and watched in silence, my camera making the only sounds. A pair of ravens joined the eagles in their play just above the western rim of the coulee where an updraft was rising to meet the colder air aloft.
We counted four sub-adults, all apparently in their second year "white-belly II" plumage. Bald Eagles take four years to gain their adult plumage and in their immature feathering can be mottled dark brown and white to varying degrees. In some of the photos I took you can see the saw-tooth trailing edge of the wings, showing where two or three longer feathers remain from the last set of secondary feathers.
Just before we left the coulee, four adult eagles hove into view coming from the northeast. Here is a "movie" I put together using some of the photos I took that day.
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