Thursday, February 3, 2011

Watch for Winter Eagles

As I drove to REGI this morning, I noticed something along the side of the road ahead of me. I slowed just in time to see that it was a carcass, with a Bald Eagle and several crows on top of it. The crows flew immediately, but the large eagle lifted off slowly, its startled flight path taking it directly in front of my vehicle. Fortunately, the bird climbed just quickly enough to clear the highway, avoiding a collision, and swerved away from me. The whole incident took only a few seconds.

The close encounter with the big, beautiful bird triggered memories of two past near-misses -- One: driving slowly around a tight, blind curve on a northern county highway, my wife and I came suddenly upon a fresh deer carcass with three eagles on it, all surprised and struggling to take off. Two: A young Bald Eagle launched itself from a roadside tree toward another carcass in front us, narrowly missing our front windshield by veering away at the last second. These experiences emphasize the importance of watchful vigilance and another important reason to be alert as we negotiate the winter roads.

While many Bald Eagles head farther south for the winter toward open water, more and more of them are choosing to stay in our northern region and survive by searching for carcasses and roadkill, just as the eagle in this morning's close encounter. Those eagles that have decided to stay are having a tougher time finding food, and carcasses can tempt them to an easy meal. Besides the problem of potential lead poisoning (which we have written about before and likely will again), carcasses too close to the road create a different hazard just as deadly for these magnificent birds. Please be extra careful as you drive, especially on roads with sharp turns, dips, and hills. Both REGI and the hardy Bald Eagles dealing with our harsh northern winters thank you for it!

Steve Fisher
REGI Education Director

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