Eagles nest along the river – Garry Armstrong

The same day as the fabulous sunset, I went out with Tom in his little boat. I took this picture of a bird on the channel marker in the river. I was too far away to see what it was. Marilyn instantly spotted it as an American Eagle. It’s the white chest and head, not to mention its size.

After she cropped the picture, you can see not only the eagle but his nest. That is the big pile of twigs.

Most people don’t realize that American Eagles are fishers. They need to live near water because their main diet is fish. On the Merrimack River located on the northern edge of Massachusetts, there are a lot of boating people who fish. They have gotten used to pulling out a big fish and having a huge eagle fly down and steal it. While these aren’t as big as Golden Eagles, they still have a solid 10-food wingspan and talons you don’t want to mess with. Eagles get lazy when they know all they have to do is wait and a human will provide dinner.

I know there are very large eagles in Africa who migrate to Asia and occasionally Europe in the summer. I think the American Eagle is the largest bird we have in this part of the country unless the Black Vulture is bigger. They are about the same size and rather closely related, though the eagle is a lot more handsome. You need to be a very good birder to tell the difference between them when they are up in the sky. There’s a minor difference in the feather configuration of their wings. To me, they look the same.

Eagles nest on the channel marker

We used to have a pair of eagles nesting in our woods, but they have moved on. We can still see their nest. There are quite a few of them — or were, anyway — in the valley. Lots of water and fish.

As for light, it was such a bright, clear day. Which makes the amazing sunset even more unusual. It was a very special day.

Leslie said she thought it might really be a hawk, but it isn’t a hawk. No hawk will nest on a river like that, but I think she is right that it isn’t a bald eagle. It is probably an Osprey, a slightly smaller eagle that lives almost entirely on fish. There is a similar bird, the Sea Eagle. Except they are rare and live in the Solomon Islands, so I don’t think that is one. But an Osprey? Definite possibility. A different eagle. Bald Eagles are bigger and more aggressive. They hunt for fish by diving into the river.

Osprey’s hunt with their talons, flying low over the water and grab fish with those big hooked talons. Bald Eagles attack Osprey to steal their fish. Lazy bums, those baldies.

Categories: Garry Armstrong, Light and Lights, New England, Photography, square

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15 replies

  1. I just started a preliminary drawing of a hawk. They’re all amazing creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • On the “smart to stupid” scale of bird IQ testing (I have a sister in law who did that for her Master’s degree), hawks — all raptors — are stupid because they are so focused on hunting. They are insanely good at that.

      They can see animals on the ground from 200 feet in the air and dive to get them. Genius-level hunters, not good at much else. Some of them hit 175 MPH on their downward dive. I’m pretty sure no car I’ve owned in the past 20 years could go that fast, especially not straight down. They are beautiful, too. There something about those eagle-eyes! What kind of eagle or hawks are you drawing? My favorite is the falcon. They are small, but they have great lines. And they can be trained to show up for dinner. A friend of mine in Israel trained one, but when it came time to fly on to his next port of call (Europe), he waved a wing and was gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s a Hawk after checking the photo…


        • It’s an American Eagle. it is not a hawk. I’ve seen a lot of eagles. They live along the rivers and coastline. They fish. The only hawk that lives that way is actually ALSO an eagle, the Osprey. It is the smallest eagle.

          Liked by 2 people

          • It isn’t a hawk, but it might be an Osprey, which is a smaller eagle. The nest could be for either one.

            There are no hawks with markings like that — or which are so big. But that does look like a black stripe on his head, so it could be an osprey. NOT a hawk. Too big and with that nest on the river, there is no hawk that lives by water and builds that nest. If it were in flight, you could easily tell which is was. The Osprey’s wings are angled and look rather V-shaped. The bald eagle has straight wings. But also, the bald eagles change completely from their all brown color when they are young (though that beak is a real giveaway) and as they are changing color, they have patches of brown which will disappear as they become mature. The river eagles also fight. The Bald Eagle will attack an Osprey to steal his fish. Lazy bums, those baldies. So maybe it’s an Osprey. But there is no hawk that lives in this region that has ever remotely similar markings.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I mean the one I’m drawing…


            • You may have hawks we don’t have here. But that particular bird really IS an eagle. The smallest of our eagles, but not a hawk. If you can see it, look at the beak and look at the size and weight of the bird. Hawks are built differently. More streamlined. Eagles are heavier bodies, with very big beaks. Big chests. They are powerful. The only hawks even close to their size are the red-shouldered hawks and they are forest dwellers, not fishers … and they don’t look like either.

              Mainly, we have a lot of Ospreys and Bald Eagle from Connecticut and probably up through your part of the country, though unless you have tall trees they won’t live near you. Bald Eagles roost very high up, usually in oak trees, but never far from someplace to fish. Osprey’s live right next to the water. Down on the cape, they build “Osprey nest boxes” to invite the birds to nest there. Both Ospreys and Bald Eagles were nearly extinct, but both are doing surprisingly well now. Nonetheless, despite all the laws against it, people still shoot them. Sometimes for the feathers (eagle feathers are magic) and sometimes because people with guns will shoot anything because they like shooting things.

              Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, yes, they are. I didn’t realize who I had when I took the pic. Thought it might be funny to see the winged creature, pausing for a moment atop the ” slow-no wake zone” sign.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. thats amazing! so happy you got to see them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seeing them wild is the best way. Usually, the ONLY way.

      In any case, they are hardly feeder birds. We used to have a local red-shouldered hawk who liked to chow down in our driveway. I think that’s where all the bunnies and chipmunks went. We asked him to take his leftover with him and he did. I understand they are hunters, but cleaning up that grisly mess didn’t appeal to us. Also, they are almost as big as an eagle!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another remarkaable shot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • In this case, Garry saw the configuration of bird and channel marker and shot for that. It was quite a long distance, so even with the long lens camera, it was a distant shot. I spotted the white breast and head and there’s ONLY one bird with that configuration you’ll find along waterways. That they prefer to steal fish rather than bothering to hunt for them makes them a perfect American Eagle — the ideal American National bird. Benjamin Frankly strongly objected to that eagle as “our” bird. He wanted the turkey. But from what I’ve met of wild turkeys (lots of them locally), they really are TURKEYS. They won’t get out of the way of cars. They like to eyeball you and dare you to move.


      Liked by 2 people

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