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  • Erin


Updated: Feb 24, 2021

We spent an hour exploring our way to the beach and stopped at the flowering tree that grows intertwined with a great climbing oak. Paths strewn with flower petals wind under and around the trees. We played chase and while we were under the tree a large number of bushtits arrived, tweeting and flitting about the tree top. Were they eating the flowers? Bugs?

At the beach the kingfisher showed up again and sat on the ever-popular mid-channel snag.

As I was taking the kingfisher's picture my attention was strongly pulled to the north. I saw some white movement in the air out of the corner of my eye but was focused on trying to get the picture with my fancy iPhone-through-the binocs-set-up.

Even with my focus on this photograph task, my quiet senses were telling me to turn and look. I kept glancing at my kid to make sure he was fine and he was. It wasn't him pulling my attention.

I finished the photograph and set my phone down. Something still strongly tugging for my attention, out of the corner of my eye I saw this large bird soaring. I thought for a second maybe it was a pelican. I turned to look more closely and it was a bald eagle! I was so excited! I grabbed my binoculars and got some really cool views of it as it was flying fairly low. I picked up kiddo and pointed it out to him as it circled a bit higher and kind of got into a flying pattern with some vultures (maybe the air current lured them all there?).

My interest in learning about birds has been to really get to know the smallest, most regular, common birds I see around my house everyday. To get to know their ways and habits and - through them - get to know the landscape and be a part of the conversation happening in the natural world around me (even in the city with the mockingbirds and scrub jays and house sparrows). So I've not sought out opportunities to see rare birds or magnificent birds like a bald eagle, but this was so special and breathtaking. I had a lot of thoughts during the short time kiddo and I got to watch this bird including "was this experience of seeing this bird much more common for people living on this river a couple hundred years ago? What was that like? Did this bird have the power to pull one's attention even if or when it was more common to see?"

In any case I mostly just reveled in watching the eagle but I did grab my iPhone and take a quick video. The eagle was pretty far away by the time I managed to do this.

We also saw kinglets, phoebes, towhee, scrub jays, magpies, vultures, great blue heron, acorn wood peckers, ducks, coots, geese, buffleheads. Swallows swooped above the river with lots of calls. We saw both the snowy and great egret wading together just north of the beach. We saw the group of hawks calling quite a lot again and I now think they were red-shoulder hawks. I saw them and heard there many calls two weeks ago two and wrote about that here but thought they were red tails then. I got a good look through binoculars this time and I think that both today and two weeks ago they were red-shoulders. Up near the almond tree we glimpsed two small yellow birds with bright, loud song. Warblers?

On the way out we managed to find that skeleton from last week and take some pictures this time. Next step: figure our who it was. My guesses are vulture or heron? I don't know anything about skeletons though so who knows?

By the time we walked out around noon it was super warm and I was carrying a backpack laden with all our discarded layers. We had to make a grocery stop and I failed in my ever loving goal of getting home before kiddo falls asleep in car and therefore misses his nap. This day was pretty special all around though and I think it was worth it!

And bonus: some *stellar* videography of the bushtits in the flowering tree followed by some info I looked up on bald eagles!

Here's some new things I learned and looked up about Bald Eagles after this amazing experience:

  • Bald eagles are a endangered species success story leaving the list in 2007.

  • They start nesting now (in February) and hatch in mid-March.

  • December through March is the best time to see them in California.

  • During the winter there has been up to 1,000 Bald Eagles living in California.

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