Thursday, July 3, 2008

Birds of Prey

I know that there are some birds that are carnivores. They like to eat meat: rodents, other birds, fish...from the largest bird in Alaska, the Bald Eagle, to the smaller Northern Shrike...they hunt for dinner. So it always amazed me how passive the Bald Eagle can be. I can't tell you how many times there has been an eagle perched on the peak of the house getting dive- bombed by crows. The crows are relentless, flying at the eagle from all angles trying to get it to move on. I've seen them do it while perched in the spruce trees on the uphill side of the street and I've seen the crows on many occasion pestering eagles even while in flight. I often thought, "why are you letting that annoying Crow do that to you?"

Well it all added up and the eagle has snapped!

Tim and I were downtown last weekend and took a trip up the tram to Mt Roberts to check on the snow pack. There are great trails up there but the snow has been slow in melting and most of the trails aren't accessible. We did a short hike up there but the snow pack is still low enough that we couldn't make it very far. Didn't have our crampons or snow hooks with us and didn't feel like traversing through the snow at the steep angle it would require. But we enjoyed a short walk and a nice ride up and down.

We then decided that since we had found a place to park downtown we would walk over to Gold street and walk the Flume down Basin Road. Its a great little walk and fun to follow the rushing water in Gold Creek. So (back to the eagle story) as we were walking through town towards the Basin, we witnessed a mature Eagle carrying a crow in his talons. I was shocked. I didn't have time to pull out my camera, dang it. As we walked through the crowd the story started to unfold. Apparently the crow had been harassing the eagle (see - what did I tell you) and the eagle came back and snatched the crow off the roof of the library and carried the black bird away. HA! take that - annoying crow bird.

So this reminds me of another bird encounter I experienced recently. While in Seattle at the University of Washington campus attending an Ocean Science conference, I was taking a short walk after lunch through the campus to take advantage of the great weather and the beautiful campus. Close to the Ocean Science building I heard the familiar noise of the crow. I also saw a bunch of Robins. Unfortunately for the Robin, the Crow decide to steal a Robin chick. It must have fallen out of a nest (or maybe dragged out by the Crow) and became fair game. Oh, the other Robins tried to get that chick back but were unsuccessful. I was almost sick to my stomach at the fate of the chick and had great sympathy for the Robins. It was a disturbing experience for me.

Our friend Ron, while in Fairbanks a couple years ago, invited us to Creamer's while he flew his Peregrine Falcon and his Gyrfalcon. He warned us that they might happen to take a duck down while in flight. They were both beautiful in flight - quick in flight - flying in spirals to hit the drafts and then soaring over the fields. The gyrfalcon was first and he did track some geese but clearly they were too big of a target for him. The geese huddled together on the ground, fighting the temptation to fly which might have been fatal.

You could almost see the smile on the Peregrine's face as she took off for the blue and open sky. She was very fast and flew back and forth across the fields, then went higher and higher until she dove back to earth. She spotted a pair of mallards on a pond and flew over them a couple of times. They got nervous and took off from the pond. Bad mistake for them. The Peregrine charged in and took the male down. It happened so quick it was almost like the Peregrine crashed into the duck head first but I'm sure she must have had her talons out for a fatal wound. They came down together and Ron quickly made sure the duck was dead. That Peregrine was so proud. At first I was shocked. I love ducks and other waterfowl. But the natural instincts of the Peregrine were also so beautiful to watch. It happens all the time in the wild.

The Peregrine is no longer with us - she got taken by an Eagle last fall.

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