Tag: BaldEagle

National Bald Eagle Day: Raising Awareness for An National Symbol and Treasure

So today is National American Eagle Day or National Bald Eagle Day. This is the day that various organizations set aside to help raise awareness about our national symbol–the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The history behind the bald eagle being chosen for the national symbol is slightly humorous. In case you haven’t heard some of the history, here is a very condensed version:

Since most countries adopt an animal for their national symbol, the Continental Congress wanted to do so as well, but the first national seal was actually Lady Liberty holding a shield. Since that wasn’t what they wanted, they made inquires with others for thoughts and the first ‘choice/suggestion/selection’ was actually the golden eagle.

Again, the Continental Congress wasn’t happy with the suggestion–mainly because the golden eagle could also be found in Europe and therefore it wouldn’t do. They then looked to ‘native birds’ and decided on the bald eagle (though the turkey was also suggested as it was also ‘native’).

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The bald eagle was ‘fierce-looking’ and the fledgling country thought it was a better representation of the country to the world–therefore it was selected. Even after the war was over, there was discussion on whether to keep the bald eagle as the emblem or think of a new one–Benjamin Franklin kept rooting for the turkey.

This story does raises a fairly good historical question–if we had managed to breakaway from England without war, what animal would have been chosen as the national symbol–would it still have been the eagle, or maybe the turkey, or maybe something else?

So that is the brief history behind how the bald eagle became our national bird and symbol.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t had really ‘clear skies’ over the past three hundred years.

By the 1950s both the bald eagle and the golden eagle were at risk of becoming extinct. This was due to a combination of over hunting (young bald eagles happen to look a lot like golden eagles, so they were often killed ‘by mistake’–hunters thought they were bagging young golden eagles), pesticide use (DTT poisoned fish led to eagles laying eggs with very thin shells, which ended up at times getting crushed from the parents sitting on them), and habitat loss.

Once DTT was banned, and the eagles placed on the endangered species list their populations started to make a recovery. In case of the bald eagle, they were downgraded from endangered to threatened in 1995, and then in 2007 they were removed entirely from both the endangered species and the threatened species lists as their populations had recovered enough. They’re usually under state protection these days.

Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake

Though in recent years, there had been a die off of bald eagles in the southeastern portion of the US, but that has finally been traced to a toxic algae bloom in the waters (something scientists are now keeping an eye on).

I enjoy catching site of the bald eagle as it soars over Boomer Lake throughout the year, and I also enjoyed watching the bald eagles up at Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota sit on top of the Norway pines as they watched the waters waiting for their next meal to come closer to the surface.

Bald Eagle sitting at the top of a Norway pine at Lake Vermilion

Have you seen a bald eagle in the wild?

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Starting a new photography challenge: Day 1: Bald Eagle

So I’ve decided that I’m going to start a fresh photography 365-day photography challenge. I will hopefully be sharing a ‘new’ photography daily for the next year. I’m going to clarify the ‘new’—as in hopefully sharing 365 different photographs. Some may be similar to past photography challenges (I mean we are in the middle of a pandemic and I haven’t been traveling), but I’m hoping not to repeat the photograph subject (at least for the first 100 days or so).

Bald Eagle soaring over Boomer Lake, Stillwater OK

In addition, I will probably be linking in a photography page to the current photograph—as a way of increasing views to those pages as well. Again, this is going to be an evolving project, an way for me to 1) increase my photography skills; 2) work on a project during the day that isn’t 100% related to job transition; 3) find beauty in the day; and 4) just have fun.

So the winner for day one is the Bald Eagle. The bald eagle, is the national symbol for the US, and is native to all of North America where it’s range stretches from Alaska down to the northern parts of Mexico. Depending on where you live, you may or may not see them in the wild—but if you’ve been to a zoo, you’ve probably seen one there.

Bald Eagle sitting in a pine tree, Lake Vermilion MN

I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to see these majestic birds in the wild—both where I currently live (I’m probably about half a mile away from the city ‘lake’) soaring above Boomer Lake every so often; and then up at Lake Vermilion in northern MN. I remember being about 12 or so, when my father and I took a kayak out to look at the nest of one of the bald eagle pairs on Vermilion Lake—it was huge.

These majestic birds have managed to climb back from the edge of extinction and while they aren’t protected under the Endangered Species Act, they are currently under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

I’m hoping that soon I can get back to my weekly walks around Boomer Lake and hopefully be able to spot one of these majestic birds soaring overhead looking for lunch to steal or catch.

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Photography Challenge Day 87: The Bald Eagle, our national emblem in flight

The winner of today’s photography challenge is our national emblem—the Bald Eagle. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I got home and put the pictures on the computer that I realized that I managed to get a fairly decent picture of one in flight.

The Bald Eagle soaring over Boomer Lake

I’m not a stranger to photographing Bald Eagles, when we would go up to northern Minnesota and stay at the family cabin, we’d usually see a Bald Eagle or two perched on the top of some of the trees.

Bald Eagle overlooking Lake Vermilion, St. Louis County Minnesota

While the eagle is in the raptor family, it is actually an opportunistic predator. It will hunt, though it does by either watching from a high perch and then swooping in to catch the prey unexpected or by cruising low over the water or land. It is known to be a scavenger feeding on dead carrion. It will also harass other fishing birds (such as Ospreys) and steal their food from them.

They usually have one or two young a year, though if it is a scarce year in terms of hunting only one of the young may actually survive (the strongest one to get to the food dropped in the nest). It is usually four or five years before the eagles will mate, and they may mate for life. They may also reuse the same nest, adding to it each year making it bigger and bigger. It isn’t unheard of Great Horned Owls stealing the nest of Bald Eagles.

What are some other cool facts about Bald Eagles?

It was almost beaten by the wild turkey for choice of the national emblem (that was the bird that Ben Franklin wanted chosen).

They have been observed to “play” with plastic bottles or other objects (such as sticks).

The largest nest on record is in St. Petersburg Florida and was measured to be 2.9 meters in diameter (or 9.5 feet) and 6.1 meters (or 20 feet) tall.

The young bald eagles (under the age of five) spend the time in nomadic exploration, and fly hundreds of miles.

They can have long life spans—the oldest recorded bird was ~38 years old. It had been hit and killed by a car in New York in 2015; it had also been banded in New York—but in 1977.

References: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/bald-eagle;  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/overview#

As much as I would love to try to get a picture of their nest–I know that they’re probably not nesting around Boomer Lake, and therefore I won’t be trekking in to see if I can spot the young being fed. Now if I was up at Lake Vermilion–that would be another story (though I’d have to be extremely careful not to drop my camera into the lake).

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