Notes from Hunter Creek

Return Of The Eagles

As you probably know, in the sixties, the bald eagle had almost disappeared from the lower 48. 

There were multiple causes: agriculture insecticide run-off, the extensive use of DTT resulting in much thinner eagle egg shells, and of course, the usual culprit, loss of habitat, were all important factors.    

After outlawing the use of DTT, the erection of huge artificial eagle nests in various areas, and the education of farmers as to the type and amount of chemicals utilized in their operations, bald eagles started slowly to make a comeback.     

Less than 20 years later, eagles are becoming very common in popular areas, such as the upper Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.     

This year I have seen more bald eagles than ever before. In the valley, so far this winter I have counted over 30, but never more than three at one time, I know, I could be counting some of the same eagles over and over.           

The other day, I was traveling on US 60 Hwy. just east of Willow Springs near the upper reaches of the Eleven Point River, when I noticed three mature bald eagles feasting on some carrion between the shoulder of the road and the river, less than 50 feet from semis roaring down the highway at speeds of 65 mph or better.   

The object of their feast appeared to be, I believe, a dead armadillo, or possibly a raccoon. 

I have reported this before, but in the late nineties, I encountered around 75 bald eagles in an apparent mating frenzy one warm Thanksgiving weekend while canoeing on the lower Buffalo River in the Leatherneck Wilderness Area.     What a sight!  

As you may or may not know an eagle can live up to a quarter-century or longer, in the wild.  A pair of eagles will mate for life. If something happens to the male, eventually the female eagle will fine another mate. However if the male loses his mate, he will often become a solitary loner for the rest of his life.   

Eagles generally mate in the lower 48 and return to Canada or Alaska in the summer to bear and raise their eaglets.  Their nests are built large and sturdy in order to support two heavy birds that both have six-foot wing spans. It is not uncommon for an eagle nest constructed of sticks, leaves, and mud in the north country to weigh more than a half-ton. 

The bald eagle is back. If you want to see them in great numbers,  consider taking the British Columbia or Alaska ferry system through the Inland Passage. Get your camera ready as you pull into any village or port. 

The place where I have seen the most bald eagles is along the Haines Hwy. as it runs through the Alaska National and State Wildlife Refuge, between Yukon Territory and Haines, Ak.  Be prepared to observe hundreds of bald eagles during late summer along the southerly flowing Clilkat River. Some will be fishing but most are perched on riverside timber, on the look-out for a nice, juicy dead salmon floating downstream in the cold currents after mating and expired upstream in a smaller, clear water  tributary. 

People in the Ozarks are increasingly informing me that they have observed golden eagles here. It is possible although not likely. While there are uncommon sightings occasionally of golden eagles in the Ozarks, the vast majority of reporters are misinformed. Also the wing span of the golden eagle is only about 5 feet, not 6 feet.

More than likely, they are viewing an immature bald eagle. Golden eagles always have a yellow or golden head; thus their namesake. Also Golden eagles are slightly smaller than a bald eagle. Most reporters are actually observing an immature bald eagle.                

Note:     New Year’s Resolutions 

I realize most people have already made their resolutions for the year; and many are crying into their chocolate ice cream about breaking some or most of them.  I should probably follow Mark Twain’s advice –– he once famously said that “he was going to resolve NOT to make any further resolutions” during his lifetime. 

And even though I never usually make New Year’s Resolutions due to many inherent weaknesses, for 2019, I have determined to make the following resolutions:  

1. I will eat more sherbet and less ice cream.

2. I will quit trading for a used pick-up truck every 2-3 years, so I am not constantly indebted.

3. I will listen more and talk less.

4. I will attempt to still be truthful, but maybe in a not-so-blunt manner but definitely in a more diplomatic way. 

5. I will attempt to be more “understanding” with my grandchildren when they have been discovered removing all my tools from my tool chest in the garage. 

6. I will attempt to smoke fewer hand-rolled Nicaraguan and Honduran stogies due to politics.

7. And finally, I will attempt to make my “Notes” columns shorter and more to the point.  

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!