Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Wildlife Season Begins

Spring mating season on the farm began with a truly amazing sight this morning. Steve and I were in the kitchen when Annie called and said, "Are you watching the bird action in front of your house?" She wasn't sure if it was a hawk or something else, but some crows were pestering it, and she'd seen another large bird coming in to try to mate with it. When I looked out the window, I gasped. "It's a bald eagle!"

I've seen many eagles in this area, and they never cease to amaze. There was one that would sometimes fly alongside my car on my way from Cold Spring to work at the Liturgical Press. But I've never seen one on our property before, let alone on the oak tree right outside our front door. I was literally 50 yards from it.

I took some photos of it from the kitchen window, but the view was really of the eagle's backside, with an occasional turn of the head for a profile shot. I decided I had to get outside to get a better photo, so I went through the basement door and out onto the driveway, giving it a wide berth. I'm not a very good photographer, so I kept to the auto-focus setting. Shooting through the cottonwoods was challenging, getting it to focus on the eagle instead of the near branches.

It was colder than I thought, and after a few minutes I was ready to come in. But as I started coming in, suddenly the other eagle swooped in and began harrassing what I now think was the female. I tried to get a photo but it was already flying off, and the camera of course focused on this near branches, so it was just a blur. I'll post it below anyway.

The bald eagle information page I visited says the females have a "deeper beak (measured from top to chin)" than the males. It also said that they mate for life and don't always mate every year. Best of all, it said they usually mate close to their nest. If we have a bald eagle nest on our property, life will truly be complete! I have to wonder, however, since our ponds do not have fish in them, and that is what bald eagles eat.

I've been resisting believing that spring has begun, even though we just had a week of rain (35-38 degrees) that has melted several feet of snow. And today was the day for maple tree tapping at St. John's Arboretum. I went and had lunch with two of my favorite monks, Father Dan Durken and Father Wilfred Theisen, where we visited with Brother Walter and Sarah Gainey from the Arboretum. Fr. Wilfred said, "If you get serious about the maple syrup operation, you should go visit this guy up in Duluth." We looked at each other and smiled. Each year they tap 800-1200 trees, and last year they made 200 gallons, which means 8,000 gallons of sap. It's incredibly labor-intensive and mostly fulfills their desire to provide the monks with syrup and to provide education and an experience for school groups and college students.

This is the beginning of Spring. I haven't seen a bluebird yet, but the eagles have gotten us off to a great start.

Yes, I know it's hard to tell-- the blur on the tree is the female and the flat blurry line is the male flying away. You should have heard them shriek!! If only I'd had my flip camera!

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