Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eagle Cruise - What a Great Day!

Wayne and I enjoyed our annual Eagle Cruise on Kentucky Lake yesterday. While the temperatures were in the 30's, it didn't feel as cold on the deck taking photos as I though it would be - I tried to stay in some protected spots so I wasn't standing in the wind. With clothing four layers deep and a nice scarf to wrap over my head and neck, I spent quite a bit of time on the front and back decks taking photos of the 27 eagles we saw this year. Many others aboard, including Wayne, enjoyed watching from inside with their binoculars.

Previously we had seen most of the eagles sitting in trees. This year most of the eagles were flying. There were some immature ones sitting in trees in the coves - like they were trying to stay out of sight - I did get some photos of them though with my dandy 300 mm lens. There were lots of gulls flying along the boat, and we saw lots of coots - a favorite meal of the eagles (more on that later).

After the cruise we had dinner at the Ken Lake Lodge, which was followed by a great program by the Louisville Raptor Rehab group. They brought several raptors which have been injured and can't be returned to the wild, plus one beautiful barn owl they have raised and use for the educational program.

Before we even left the dock, we spotted an adult eagle sitting in the trees across the lake from the landing. Can you spot the adult eagle sitting in the trees? Hint: Look for the while head on a black body. The white birds you see flying are some gulls that seemed to follow us throughout the cruise.

Just after leaving the dock we spotted a peregrine falcon that has taken up residence in this big osprey nest on top of the bridge over Kentucky Lake. It's head is peaking out above the nest.

Here's the bridge... so that nest is way up there. The falcon has a bird's eye view.

After a while, you can spot the eagles pretty easy. This adult eagle was tucked into the trees.

It's fun to see them flying with their full-wing span. The wing span can reach seven feet.

There are two immature eagles sitting on the branch of this tree. They are a little fuzzy because this tree was back in a cove and it was quite a distance from the boat. Just look for two brown lumps sitting on the same branch.

We saw quite a few eagles flying along the tree line like this one.

This one looks like a missile flying into the trees.

They were soaring in groups - often they would fly away from us and then fly right back over the boat. They could have been performing their own symphony up there with the ease and grace that they were soaring.

Some of the coots who were swimming along the way became meals for the eagles. We saw this eagle swoop down alongside the boat to catch a coot - the coot was fast and went underwater. The eagle went up and swooped down to make another pass for the coot - again the coot went underwater. This time the eagle hovered like in this photo to wait for the coot to come up - when the coot came up, the eagle snatched it from the water and few off to a tree for a meal. The hovering was like watching someone tread water; it was amazing to watch.

Here is an American Coot - it's a water-dwelling bird that resembles a duck.

After watching the demise of the coot, we enjoyed the cruise back to dock, checking to see if some of the eagles were still sitting in the same spots... and some were.

After docking it was off to dinner at the Lodge. Then we saw some raptors in a program presented by the Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, Inc. from Louisville. I'll share some of the photos I took of the raptors.
First we saw one of the smallest owls - the Saw-whet Owl that only weighed 3.3 oz.

Eileen Wicker talks about the Common Barn Owl.

The Turkey Vulture wanted to flap its wings - can't fly though because one wing was damaged at the joint.

After his performance, the Turkey Vulture sat down for a rest

This Golden Eagle had been caged for 18 years; they are nursing it back to health.
This was its first time to be taken out for their educational program.

The Golden Eagle gets its name from the gold feathers around its neck.
Check out the talons on the Golden Eagle.
Debbie handles the American Bald Eagle - it has a damaged wing.
Look at the beautiful coloring in the Bald Eagle's feathers.

What a beautiful day to go eagle watching. The other raptors were a bonus!
Thank you to the staff at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky for
sharing their knowledge about the raptors with us.
 This morning (Feb. 6) was the final eagle cruise for this year. If you are interested in going on one of these cruises in 2012, contact or call 270-924-2020.

And here is another place for you to watch eagles online. It is the Nest Cam at Decorah, Iowa, near the fish hatchery. What smart birds to build their nest by a fish hatchery!

Here is the link:

They have a live camera that runs 24/7. Then you can also look at the hourly shots posted. Right now the Decorah eagles are getting their nest ready - shredding corncobs for nesting material. Last year we watched from the time their eggs were laid in February until the three young eagles left the nest in August. It's a great educational tool for your children and grandchildren to watch. 
This photo is from the daily stills at Decorah.

Happy Eagle Watching!

1 comment:

  1. You have a good eye for spotting and photographing those eagles! Looks like you had a fun day.