Now Is The Time!

Old Man Winter’s icy fingers have a firm grip on the Miami Valley of Ohio. He took a while to find us but now that he is here he is intent on making his presence known in a big way! December in Dayton was warmer than average but as the new year dawned we returned to more normal temperatures and we began to see our eagles return to their annual winter behavior.

Over the years I have written about the advantages and disadvantages of eagle watching in the frigid weather. Well, actually there is only one disadvantage…the frigid weather! But the advantages are many, like the absence of leaves making the perched eagles more visible. The singular, biggest advantage is predictability. As the weather cooled we once again saw Jim and Cindy begin to fish the local rivers more frequently, bringing them out of the well field and into more public spaces. The cooler air temperatures force the cold-blooded fish in the local lakes to go deeper for warmth thus making surface fishing more difficult. And now that the lakes have frozen over, the door to Jim and Cindy’s pantry is locked shut for a few weeks. But the icy lake surface is where our pair prefer to mate so it’s not all bad news. The surface of Eastwood Lake seemed to have frozen overnight. Here is an image of the frigid lake with the downtown skyline in the distance. That is where the eagles will be fishing now.

On Frozen Pond

On Frozen Pond

The rivers of the area are just a few feet deep in most places and the surface of the moving water freezes less easily than the calm lake waters. Another advantage is the turbulence provided by the inflow of one river into another. On the north edge of our downtown, the Stillwater River and the Mad River dump into the Great Miami about half a mile apart, plus there is a low dam on the Great Miami right in the middle of that action adding enough turbulence to turbulence to break up any surface ice that may form. As I have mentioned, we still only have two nesting adults within the city of Dayton making predictability a big advantage for eagle watchers. Jim and Cindy are truly urban eagles and therefore face different challenges than their more rural relatives.

In the winter our eagles like to hang out in a small grove of large trees along this very stretch of river. In the following image you can see those trees to the left and Interstate 75 to the right with the Great Miami barely visible between the high levees.

Winter's perch.

Winter’s perch.

I do not like them being so close to the freeway but that is what it is. They will often fly upriver, passing just 20 feet or so above the speeding semis!

This next image was taken from the same spot looking southwest and shows just how close this area is to the edge of our central business district. The Mad River is just to the left of this view.

Looking southwest.

Looking southwest.

Then one more picture, again from that same spot, looking at the Great Miami to the north. You can see the busy highway bridge in the foreground. The arched bridge in the distance is the Helena Street Bridge over the Stillwater River and between the two bridges you can see the water flowing over the low river dam that I mentioned earlier.

Looking north.

Looking north.

But the active water makes this the place to be in the wintertime, especially if you are a Bald Eagle or an eagle watcher. Jim and Cindy know that other passing eagles will find this area too so they stand guard over the place to discourage poachers. Knowing where they will be makes it able for the eagle watcher to be there first. Monday morning was bitter with brisk winds and single digit temperatures, but the frigid air was crystal clear when I arrived at that small grove of trees. I had only been there a short time when Jim flew in and landed nearby.

Here's Jimmy!

Here’s Jimmy!

The stiff wind buffeted his feathers making him look rather Harpy-like at times.

Jimmy Buffet(ed)

Jimmy Buffet(ed)

He was obviously on patrol as he searched the skies for intruders. He reminded me of a traffic cop sitting along the highway with an A.P.B. for a “dark-colored, two-winged vehicle with a white hood and white rear end”. Every bird (or plane) that passed by was carefully scrutinized.

Even the parking lot full of long-necked vehicles with Canadian plates at the water’s edge below was inspected. Although they were guilty of excessive honking, he let them go.

Checking out the noisy geese below.

Checking out the noisy geese below.

After about 30 minutes he spotted 2 suspect vehicles approaching from the west. I could not see them but Jim’s actions told the story. He alerted, leapt to a lower limb, lowered his head and stared intensely at the approaching suspects.

Watching approaching intruders.

Watching approaching intruders.

He remained in this agitated state for about a minute as he watched the pair draw nearer. Then, with siren blaring he took to the skies and pursued the suspect vehicles, escorting them well beyond the Helena Street bridge before returning to his perch.

Officer Jim sat there for another 30 minutes before he finally flew off, most likely in the direction of a local doughnut shop.

Ready to launch.

Ready to launch.

In less than a month there will be eggs in the nest and Jim and Cindy will be once again anchored to the well field. If you are in the area and want to see an eagle in the wild, this is the place to be and now is the time!

Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I needed an eagle update! Thank you for wonderful prose and pictures.

  2. You are a true and devoted eaglewatcher to brave the cold!!!! And we are so blessed to have your eyes and ears and pen in hand!!! Thank you for the update and the photos of Jim and stay warm!!!! Polly.

  3. You make my day filled with joy and wonder àt the beauty god has given to us thru you,

  4. Cool! How do you get to your viewing spot?

  5. Thanks Jim for the up date and photos!

  6. Glad we could help Donna.

  7. I am grateful for heated seats and warm gloves Polly.

  8. God lovingly bathes our world in wonder and beauty Susan. We are blessed to be able to reflect His love to others.

  9. North Bend Boulevard south of Helena Street is the place to be right now Melody! Patience pays off.

  10. Our pleasure April. We are glad you enjoy them!

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