For the Birds: An eagle on the edge

Photo by Chris Bosak A young bald eagle perches on a dead tree near Danbury Fair mall in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

It was an eagle. There was no doubt about that. I second-guessed myself only for a second because of where the sighting took place.

It was not on a remote lake in northern New England or on one of the islands in Long Island Sound. It was right along a highway.

We are all used to seeing hawks perched along the highway. In fact, when I drive to Pennsylvania a couple of times a year to visit family, I make it a point to count the number of red-tailed hawks I see perched in trees along Route 86. It’s usually between 10 and 15. Hey, it passes the time on a long drive.

I noticed from far away as I approached the scene that there was a bird perched in a tree overhanging a somewhat busy state highway. Even from a significant distance, I could tell it was not a hawk. The only question was whether it was an eagle or a vulture. It did not have the posture of a vulture, but rather the regal stance of an eagle.

As I drove up to the bird, I could see that it was an immature bald eagle. It was probably about 2 years old. Bald eagles do not get their signature white feathers on their heads and tails until they are four or five. It was large like an eagle, but not massive. That leads me to believe that it was a male bald eagle as female eagles, like most birds of prey, are larger.

The snag the eagle was perched on is close to a small pond and the eagle kept a close look at the water and pond edges. The pond is so small, in fact, that I’m not sure what the eagle was looking for. The pond likely doesn’t hold many big fish and there were certainly no ducks that the eagle could go after. Regardless of its reasons for picking that perch that morning, I was happy for it. As luck would have it, there is a small pull-off big enough for one car close to the pond. The eagle was not distracted by my truck pulling in or by the window going down. I snapped a few photos from the driver’s seat and headed back on my way to work. Not a bad way to start the day.

It was probably my second most surprising eagle sighting. The first one occurred about four years ago when I spotted an immature eagle perched in a snag in a swamp sandwiched between a large shopping mall and a six-lane interstate highway.

Years ago, eagle sightings were rare enough that there is no way I would have seen them in these settings. Now they are becoming more commonplace. Eagles, similar to ospreys, have made a nice comeback in recent years. Osprey, of course, are much more plentiful, but eagles seem to be getting there as well.

Eagle population numbers in New Hampshire echo that of very positive trends throughout New England, and the country, for that matter. Hopefully, this trend continues. It’s nice to see our national symbol thriving.

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