One thing about the coast (not just the West Coast, actually) that I still can’t get over is the eagles. The place is lousy with bald eagles. Last year a pair of them nested about a block from the ponds. One can see them regularly flying over the campus, and somehow I am the only one staring upwards whenever this happens. (Is everyone else just too stressed out or too habituated to them to notice?)
Anyways, there’s a pair that like to perch in one particular tree at the ponds, a tree that is also favoured by a red-tailed hawk. The hawk doesn’t like sharing this tree, and last weekend it was mobbing the (much larger, and more numerous) eagles!
This is not just a spectacular sight but quite impressive to hear as well. Think of the sound you’d hear in a movie, maybe a Western, when you see an eagle. A harsh, piercing scream, right?
That’s not an eagle. That’s a red-tailed hawk. This is what a bald eagle sounds like. Like a piccolo. Now imagine two of those singing at once, with the hawk screaming intermittently; all three birds whirling overhead, the smaller hawk (whose tail does show up as a blaze of rust from below) diving at the larger, starkly black and white eagles.
Red-tailed hawks are pretty majestic birds in their own right. They’re also one of the most common predatory birds on the continent, so they’re a familiar face.
I’m not sure if these eagles are the same individuals who nested here last year. The nest itself doesn’t seem to be there any more. Normally, eagles build on top of the same nest every year; it becomes absolutely massive. There have been some significant wind storms this year, so the old nest might have been destroyed in one. I’m not sure if the resident birds are back and looking to rebuild or if the birds I’ve been seeing are newcomers.
Some other firsts at the ponds this week: the first stickleback nests and the first Pacific tree frogs calling. More about them later this week.