Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The ice is shifting, open water areas are enlarging, and the bluebills have arrived at Clear Lake. Although our latest 4-inch snowfall ended early this morning, the NW winds continued to rage with gusts exceeding 40 mph. Light conditions remained gloomy, but there were just too many birds on the wing to stay indoors. Finding a quiet cove, I settled in to enjoy the show. The scaup were flying like gnats — looking for any shelter they could find.
And although light and color readings remained pathetic, I couldn’t help taking a few shots. In addition to the ducks, there were also a few eagles moving; most birds drifting down range with the wind. One of the passing immature birds must have decided that it was time for a meal. Suddenly turning on the after burners, the eagle picked a single target from among a flock of bluebills and the chase was on. In less time than it takes to tell, the juvenile raptor had overtaken the divers and lost no time in clamping down on a drake scaup. Once it was seized in the raptor’s vice-like grip, the diver made no effort to escape. There was no hint of stuggle; the duck just hung its head and died on the spot.
Although I’ve seen eagles catch ducks off the ice at Clear Lake, this episode was certainly more dramatic. Most people think of the bald eagle as being a scavenger or a fisherman. They are both, of course, but they are also much more. Bald eagles are swift, powerful and formidable aerial predators that nothing wants to see coming their way.
I just wish today’s adventure could have occurred under better weather conditions. Maybe next time.