Trick or Treat!

Here in the United States, as in some other countries, we celebrate October 31st as Halloween, or All Hallows Eve. It is the day before All Saints Day, November 1st, a forgotten holiday. Our children dress in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods “begging” for candy and sweets. They greet each home’s opening door with the phrase, “Trick or treat!” which is actually a passe’, veiled threat of retribution if they are not given a treat. This Halloween, I saw this same scenario play out with the adult Bald Eagles at Eastwood Lake.

Roger and I spotted a lone adult eagle perched on the far western end of the lake. We could not tell if it was Jim or Cindy. It was a breezy, cloudy day. A persistent light rain added to the chill and created a misty haze over the lake. Knowing that Jim and Cindy are always within a few feet of each other during Courting Season, and knowing that November is the true onset of that season, we searched the nearby trees looking for the other eagle but could find none. I decided to sit in the comfort of the heated car and wait for the distant eagle to fly closer to my camera lens. Roger finished his lunch and returned to work.

As I sat and watched, one of Jim and Cindy’s 2012 eaglets flew low overhead and headed towards the perched adult bird. It passed low over the adult then flew on to the west and disappeared beyond the treetops. And so there I sat, and watched, and watched. Well over an hour later Roger returned and informed me that both Jim and Cindy were hunting coot near the eastern end of the lake! Now remember that this is Dayton, Ohio, not Alaska or somewhere along the Mississippi River. Until a few years ago the few eagles that were in the state were found only along the southern shores of Lake Erie, far to our north. We consider ourselves blessed to have two adult Bald Eagles in our county. Other wandering adults trespassing through Jim and Cindy’s territory are more common during the autumn months, but they always bring a little excitement along with them.

The coots were not very appreciative of Jim and Cindy’s attention but they each avoided being invited to an eagle luncheon. The resident eagles seemed to be playing more than hunting and after causing quite a flurry of splashing and flapping of little wings, the eagles landed at the water’s edge for a cool drink. Then, together, they flew farther west and paused in the soon-to-be-leafless branches of a small tree for a little face-to-face conversation. Reluctantly, Roger had to leave. I sat warm and dry in my car and spied on their intimate minutes of companionship. Then, like olympic runners seeing the smoke rising from the barrel of a starter’s gun, they were off! They crossed over to my side of the lake and headed west.

I had to follow the pavement while they did not, and therefore I was at a disadvantage. When I caught up with them again I discovered what had caused the abrupt dash. They had seen an Osprey pluck a fish from their lake! (Of all the nerve!) As I moved closer, the Osprey was screaming and dive-bombing Cindy who was now comfortably perched on a low limb, eating that fish. After a few more swoops and feeling totally ignored, the Osprey wandered off to pout. Jim sat in a nearby tree and watched approvingly. When her lunch was over, Cindy flew up near Jim and looked very content sitting in the cool mist.

I had all but forgotten about the Halloween visitor who still sat perched on that tree across the lake. The pursuit of the Osprey-fish-delivery-lunchwagon had brought the eagle pair to the western end of the lake. I knew that with their keen eyesight, they were aware of the stranger. They are always aware of strangers in their territory. Amazingly aware. After about twenty minutes Cindy released her perch and flew low over the surface of the lake, mere inches above the water, on a direct path towards the intruding adult. As she neared its tree, Cindy swooped up towards the bird who immediately flushed, circled and landed in a nearby tree. Cindy lit just a few branches above it.

Jim watched Cindy’s antics from his perch behind me. He appeared unconcerned for all of about three minutes, then he was off like a shot! Traveling at a speed that eagles use only when they are trying to get somewhere fast, he crossed the lake. He took a higher route than the one Cindy had chosen. He wanted this intruder to know he was coming. The visitor had to duck its head as Jim flew in and landed on a branch between it and Cindy. Across the lake I could clearly hear the chattering of angry eagles cutting through the heavy, damp air. I believe that the startled visitor was saying, “Trick or treat.” Jim decided on “trick”.

The intruder was instantly airborne with Jim close behind. It flinched left then right then left again. Each evasive move was matched by Jim, and Jim was getting closer and closer. Even the wingbeats of the two birds seemed to be synchronized as my photos later proved. The intruder began gaining altitude and flying due north with Jim urging it onward. I watched the chase through my binoculars as they covered a distance of a mile or so before the hazy, overcast skies consumed their images.

Cindy sat preening her feathers for another ten minutes before winging her way the full length of the lake and back to the confines of the well field.

After she left, I sat there in my car and looked at the images on my camera and contemplated the raw nature I had observed. As I moved from image to image I realized that on this gloomy All Hallows Eve, I was the one who had been blessed with a treat!

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Published in: on November 1, 2012 at 3:11 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a neat post! The weather played perfectly into this situation with the visiting intruder.All that was needed was a fog machine and some creepy music! Glad Jim showed the intruder that there were no treats for an uninvited eagle. Thanks eaglejim, Polly.

  2. I’m hoping that they catch a wild turkey for Thanksgiving!


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