The closest stop sign is over a mile away and the first traffic light is 5+ miles down the road. A visit to the grocery store is almost 30 miles round trip. It's quiet here; just the sound of toads and coyotes at night. It seems very still, but when you look close there's always something happening. Read on about a few things we've noticed over the past few years.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The feather in my cap - so to speak.

I sit here at my computer in disbelief.  I can't believe I saw what I saw.  I'm still shaking my head.  My husband watched me flip out yesterday in the car and he was repeatedly asking me if I'm OK.   Let me back up a little on this story and explain my situation.  I bought some books about the history of the region and a couple of books on bird watching.  The best book I've found is a book published by the National Audubon Society.  It's called Field Guide to California.  It's a tough little handbook that can be tucked in the back pocket that I always keep in my garage for quick reference.  I spend a lot of time sitting on my swing in my garage looking and listening to what's going on out there.  This has been the perfect place for me to find, learn, and circle (in the book) what I have witnessed.  I thought except for one thing I'm watching for (a bobcat), I thought I had seen just about everything the book has identified for my area. 

So anyways we were driving along Cajalco (pronounced Ca-hall-co).  Cajalco is the two lane highway in and out of our community.  We were driving along the stretch next to Lake Matthews Reservoir.  I noticed there were dozens of flocks of birds near the lake's edges.  Lots of ducks, lots of geese, and lots of sea birds.  It made sense, the day was usually stormy and the flocks were probably landing here at this sanctuary to prepare for the bad night of weather ahead.  The weather was cold, windy and rainy.  We were talking about all these birds and the sheer volume we were seeing.  Just then I spotted an unusally large bird.  It's body was dark and it's head, neck and tail feathers were white.  The beak and feet were yellow.  It was just taking flight from a large boulder that was directly on the lake's edge.  The bird caught my eye because of it's size and my first thought was - I've never seen a bird like that around here.  I turned to take a closer look and then I noticed a second one also following the first by taking flight from about the same spot.  It was obvious, these two were a couple.  Then it hit me.  I was looking at two American Bald Eagles.  

I never expected to see these birds in this area.  I had never heard of them here and I've lived in the Inland Empire since '87.   I couldn't believe my eyes.  I started shouting at my husband to look at what I saw, then he saw them too.   Now I'm sure those of you who live in an area that has these birds doesnt think this is a big deal, but we dont see this bird in this area. 

As soon as we came home I ran to my books and read up.  This is what I learned:   The American Bald Eagle lives at the very top of the food chain.  It dominates all animals including bears and coyotes for food.  It has been known to drive established wolf packs out of areas due to competiton for food.    America sure picked a strong mascot. 

  • June 28, 2007 - The Interior Department took the American bald eagle off the endangered species list.   Once a wide spread nester, it had been nearly wiped out due to DDT. 
  • Color - Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; and yellow feet and bill.
  • Juvenile bald eagles are a mixture of brown and white. They reach full maturity in four to five years.
  • Size - The female bald eagle is 35 to 37 inches, slightly larger than the male.
  • Wingspan ranges from six to seven and a half feet!
  • Bald eagles can fly to an altitude of 10,000 feet. During level flight, they can achieve speeds of about 30 to 35 mph.
  • Bald eagles weigh from ten to fourteen pounds.
  • Eagle bones are light, because they are hollow.
  • Bald eagles have 7,000 feathers.
  • Longevity - Wild bald eagles may live as long as thirty years.
  • Lifting power is about 4 pounds.
  • Diet - Mainly fish, but they will take advantage of carrion (dead and decaying flesh).
  • The bald eagle is a strong swimmer, but if the water is very cold, it may be overcome by hypothermia.
  • Hunting area varies from 1,700 to 10,000 acres. Home ranges are smaller where food is present in great quantity.
  • All eagles are renowned for their excellent eyesight.
  • Nests are built in large trees near rivers or coasts.
  • An eagle reaches sexual maturity at around four or five years of age.
  • Fidelity - Once paired, bald eagles remain together until one dies.
  • Bald eagles lay from one to three eggs.
  • The 35 days of incubation duties are shared by both male and female.
  • Nesting cycle - about 20 weeks
  • Today, there are an estimated 9,789 breeding pairs of bald eagles.
  • Eagles molt in patches, taking almost half a year to replace feathers, starting with the head and working downward.
  • The bald eagle became the National emblem in 1782 when the great seal of the United States was adopted.
So how did this bird get here?  A coworker tells me these birds have been seen up near Big Bear.  I've also read that they are rehabbed and released in various areas.  My personal opinion is the birds came here to escape the bad weather near the coast or from the mountains.  They probably returned to that area when the storm passed.   If the eagles could come here for a storm, maybe they could come here and live?  There's always hope. 

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