Man, that is a bleak landscape.
I went out the other day with Non Birding Bill to look for golden eagles. I know, NBB going birding? What?? Well, we've both been busy doing shows, he went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show and then I went to Atlanta for AmericasMart We're basically just two spousal ships passing in the night this month. He was so desperate for my company that he willingly offered to go driving around with me to look for golden eagles. Since it was mostly in the car, he was cool with that, it wasn't like being pestered by bugs looking for sparrows. The landscape was overcast and covered with snow. When we got to the road, we laughed and I asked, "Where is the horizon?"
I was checking for the Golden Eagle survey conducted each winter by The National Eagle Center. We checked the same area where I found goldens last year.
Alas, no golden eagles on the route this year, but lots of bald eagles. After we finished our survey route, we headed to Colville Park in Red Wing, MN and found this bird. See the eagle in the upper left corner? People were practically driving under it.
It appeared to have something wrong with its eye that's facing my camera. It never moved and the bird usually kept it closed. I wonder if it had gotten in a territory battle and got a talon in the eye? Colville is a good place for this bird. There's open water all winter, lots of waterfowl and the nearby power plant stuns fish, leaving an ample food supply. I'm not sure if this bird will recover but it's possible. We've seen healthy one eyed birds come into Frank's banding station. It's not always gloom and doom.
We saw a ton of wild turkeys on our travels, that's NBB grabbing some turkey footage from the car. Turkeys are supposed to be one of the reasons we now have a wintering population of golden eagles along the Mississippi River on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border--the goldens have been observed taking turkeys as prey. We saw quite a few turkeys in trees, you'd drive along and wonder why there were a dozen black garbage bags in the trees and then realize it was a flock of turkeys feeding on sumac berries. Check out this turkey:
Waaaaaaaaay at the top of that tree! That turkey looks like she's surveying her kingdom. There were several turkeys in the tippy tops of the trees, I think something on the ground flushed them up. It's weird to see a turkey so high up. I've seen them in the tops of trees around the beehives, usually after a fox or coyote has moved through. I took turkeys in the tops of trees as a sign that a golden eagle was not actively patrolling this patch of sky. Still, I love the picture of this huge bird balancing on a high branch, watching the surrounding snow covered bluffs.
Here's that same turkey but this time what she looked like through my spotting scope. I may go back to look for goldens again. One day of no birds could just mean they were tucked in the bluffs somewhere.