Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Golden Eagle Tracks

Tuesday December 3 2019

I just happened to look out my window the instant a golden eagle landed on a jackrabbit on the hill in the snow near our Candelabra trail. I grabbed my binos and ran outside to watch. 

If I hadn't seen the eagle land, I'd have known something was going on there, as there were a dozen magpies squawking, flying around, and landing near the eagle. 

The eagle walked with the rabbit in one claw, dragging it up the snowy hill, with the magpies chattering away and licking their chops.

The eagle walked uphill a little farther, then she stopped, crouched over the rabbit, and started shredding the fur, flinging it everywhere. 

Now another dozen magpies appeared, some getting close to the monster bird, but just out of reach of her big beak, looking longingly at her meal. (I am sure I saw that expression on their faces through the binos - exactly like Finneas stands and looks over the gate at me wistfully when I'm mixing up Stormy's grain in the feed room.)

Every once in a while the eagle flung a little meat scrap and a few magpies flew in to grab it, and whoever got it shot off with a dozen other magpies hollering in pursuit. Then they'd all come back and stand around the eagle and salivate. 

Twice I saw a magpie yank her tail (like Ravens are known to do to eagles - Ravens and magpies are of the same Corvidae family) but they were very cautious about it and they were scared to do it more! 

The eagle finished the rabbit in ten minutes, and stepped off the bones, and while the magpies swarmed the dinner spot, she walked up the hill a bit, cleaned her beak, walked uphill in the snow some more, sat a while, then flew off to the next hill. 

She sat there a while, then hiked uphill some more (probably working off some of that meal), then rested (tired after a good meal). One magpie flew to join her, thinking 'This is my meal ticket!' After a while she flew off to the next hill. The eagle was really beautiful, shimmering golden feathers on her neck and lower parts of her wings. 

Years ago we used to have golden eagles nesting on the crick, not too far from the 'town' of Oreana; they successfully fledged young a couple of years. They even put up with the farmer plowing his field below their nest. But once new people bought the land, moved in a large herd of cows and irrigation lines, then started bulldozing all the brush (think: quail, rabbits, prey), and half the cottonwood trees, they've never been back since.

I hiked up the hill later to see her tracks (and the hundreds of pacing magpie tracks!) 
see the drag marks beside each foot, that's her tail feathers dragging in the snow

so big!