Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visit with the Eagles on Kentucky Lake - February 6, 2010

Every year Wayne and I enjoy a February cruise on Kentucky Lake to see the American Bald Eagles. Yesterday we had a great time on the cruise, which is sponsored by the Kentucky State Parks and Kentucky Wildlife & Conservation Department. They have staff on board as guides and to answer questions.

We cruised in style aboard the CQ Princess, which is normally docked in Louisville. They bring this yacht to the lakes in January/February for the eagle cruises.

We saw 29 eagles, lots of ducks and geese, herons, and other birds. It wasn't sunny but at least it wasn't raining (like last year). I took my camera with the 300mm lens and an extender so I could get better shots of the eagles. It was worth the price of the cruise to see a female sitting on a nest and the male eagle sitting on a branch nearby. We were able to view it in 270 degrees since the nest was in the top of a tree that was on a peninsula. I was able to shoot lots of photos.

This was my first view of the nest, using my long lens to see the male eagle sitting on a branch, while the female sits on the nest. The captain slowed down the boat so we could go by very slowly.

How about this view? You can see the female tucked behind the crooked branch.

Now the boat is almost on the other side of the nest - the female (on the left) has hopped off the nest. Did you know that female eagles are 20-30% larger than the male eagles. And this is one type of bird where the male and female look alike - he doesn't get all of the pretty feathers.

An immature eagle - see the speckled head and breast. They don't have a white head until they are about 5 years old.

This young eagle is older than the one in the previous photo. See how it has more white on his head?

Another eagle nest that was tucked back into a group of trees. The other two nests we saw were closer to the water.

An adult American Bald Eagle. We saw 29 eagles in all; 15 were immature, 2 we couldn't tell, and the other 12 were adults. You can't miss the adults with their big white heads.

Two immature eagles sit in this tree on the point. See how they look like a big black blob sitting in the tree. They are so big that they are easy to spot once you know what you are looking for.

There were some eagles soaring close to our boat just as we were finishing our cruise. Look at that wing span.

Another nest that was close to the water.

Another eagle soaring - the staff called this one the greeter, it's the first eagle we saw as we left the dock and the last one we saw when we returned. He stays in a group of trees just across from the boat dock.

Part of this Visit with the Eagles program was an evening talk on Raptors (Birds of Prey) by Dale and John Stokes. They are associated with S.O.A.R. - Save our American Raptors. From May to September they present programs at the Rock City Raptors Birds of Prey at Rock City near Chattanooga, Tennessee. During the rest of the year, the give programs at schools and at state parks. All of the birds they display have been "humanized" - that is they have been raised by humans (and often depend then on humans for their food) or have been injured and cannot be released back to the wild.

I took a few photos, but they asked us not to use any flash, so the lighting isn't the best. You can see what the birds look like anyway.

Many of us have probably heard Screech Owls - here is what they look like. These two small owls are the only birds that live together at their sanctuary for these birds of prey.

The barn owl has such a funny shaped face.

This broad-winged hawk flew very fast...and this one came right over my head, parting my hair it was so close. But I got his picture anyway. Phew, that was close.

Red-tailed hawk has such beautiful coloring. I didn't get a photo of his back, but the back and tail feathers are really pretty. We have one of these hawks that torments the squirrels in our back yard (and catches one of them sometimes).

This black vulture flew back and forth over the heads of the audience. BIG bird.

This American Bald Eagle was rescued after being shot; his wing had to be removed as a result of that shot. Still a beautiful bird, but can never be released to the wild again. (The bald eagle is the bird up front...not the head you see in the photos...grin.)

There were people on this cruise from all over. If you are ever going through Kentucky in late January or early February, be sure to check out the Eagle Cruises through the Kentucky State Parks. We are really glad that they have this program and enjoy cruising to see the eagles every year!

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