Bald Eagle Surprise Returning From Lema Ranch

by Larry Jordan on October 18, 2009

Bald Eagle photos by Larry Jordan

I had a great outing at Lema Ranch this morning with some friends from the local Audubon.  The weather was cool and overcast in the early morning and the birds were all out enjoying the day.  I had quickly gathered fourteen species as I headed down the hill into town without even seeing my resident American Kestrel or the recently returning Lewis’s Woodpeckers.  I did see the Wild Turkeys and a large tiding of Yellow-billed Magpies but I was running late and had no time to stop for photo ops.

American Crow

We counted forty two species at Lema Ranch, some of the best birds being a Lincoln Sparrow, Belted Kingfisher, Green Heron and the first flock of Cedar Waxwings I had seen this year.  We also watched as a Pied-billed Grebe choked down a huge fish that I wouldn’t have thought would fit down its throat.  But that ended up not being the most interesting part of my birding day.

On the way back home I added a Great Blue Heron to my list and was hoping to get a decent shot of a Common Raven.  You see with the weather changing I’ve seen several deer on the road lately, some which haven’t made it as they try to cross the highway.  With fresh carnage along side the roadway, I have seen groups of American Crows, the ever present Turkey Vultures, and some Common Ravens, gathering around to clean up.  My plan was to drive by one of these sites slowly enough to snap off a couple of shots of the ravens.

As I approached the scene, I saw many more birds than I had on the way into town six hours earlier.  But before I got close enough, some vehicles came from the other direction and the birds flew.  There were at least thirty Turkey Vultures and several crows taking part in the feast but I didn’t see any Common Ravens.  The birds flew up into a huge circle and several came back down to rest on the fence posts along the road.

I turned the car around and passed by on the opposite side of the road to see if I could see any ravens.  Nothing.  Another (legal) U-turn and I was back on the side of the road with the deer and the Turkey Vultures where I decided to slowly pull off and park, and watch.  A few vultures took off and when I turned to watch them, that’s when I saw the Bald Eagle.  It was headed toward my parked car when it pulled up and landed on snag about 100 feet away!  One of the Turkey Vultures landed on the same snag, as the Bald Eagle looked on, unmoved.

I was in the midst of photographing the Bald Eagle when my cell phone rang with a message that I was being called back into work.  The best image I got was the one you see at the top of the post.  I was hoping to stay long enough to catch an in-flight shot of the eagle but today was not the day.  All I got as I turned around to pass the deer again was a photo of the bravest Turkey Vulture of the group, still sitting on the fence post.

A good birding day!

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Mick October 19, 2009 at 12:01 am

I’d say it was a GREAT birding day and that is a really nice photo of the eagle.
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Dollarbird =-.


Eileen October 19, 2009 at 1:03 am

For me , seeing an Eagle is always an awesome sighting. They are a more common sighting but it is still a thrill for me.
You had a great birding day.
Great Photos of the Eagles and TV.
.-= Eileen´s last blog ..A yellow bird for Mellow Yellow Monday.. =-.


Faye October 19, 2009 at 6:30 am

Great photos and great day. I have never seen a bald eagle that I am aware of around here.


Janie October 19, 2009 at 6:31 am

I get excited when I a common hawk. It just takes my breath away when I see a bald eagle. Thanks for the pics Larry.


Klaus October 19, 2009 at 8:24 am

Always nice to get an Eagle! Good job!


chris October 19, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Wow Larry,
This post is incredible and truly I would have been excited like….If i had seen all that in s birding tour!! I don’t even know if I would have managed to get pictures!!! Gosh the bald eagle shot is fantastic, but when you made me realize that turkey vulture were around too… Then I was….pfffffffff… quite impressed and astonished!! Gosh what a day!
.-= chris´s last blog ..Eisðvík beach =-.


Neil October 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Looks like you picked the right day to go birding great photos.
.-= Neil´s last blog ..Red-capped Plover & Pacific Golden Plover =-.


Nicole October 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm

It nevertheless must have been an awesome trip though.
My favorite shot is the last one with both of them big birdies in that tree.
Why a bald eagle is named thus is beyond me though.
He’s all but bald, tsts…. In German the name is “Weisskopf-Seeadler” which would translate into “white head”. Makes more sense to me 😉

(Sorry for rambling, just came to my mind. 🙂 )
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..Visiting the small Pools (Sewers) and the birds =-.


Larry October 19, 2009 at 11:02 pm

@Mick thanks. It was a great day with perfect weather

@Eileen thank you. I always love seeing eagles too. The Bald Eagle is fairly common around the big lakes here. There are even a pair that nest right next to highway 44 in Redding. We also enjoy Golden Eagles but they are fewer in numbers

@Faye you must have Bald Eagles at Pardee Reservoir and New Hogan Lake

@Janie you are very welcome and thanks for stopping by

@Klaus thanks buddy! Your Willet is amazing!

@Chris it truly was a wonderful day of birding. It is pretty common to get several different scavengers at a road kill. The Turkey Vultures have a superior sense of smell and find the carcass first, followed by crows, ravens, other vultures and Bald Eagles.

@Neil sometimes things just drop nicely into place

@Nicole I agree, White-headed Sea Eagle is a much better name


NatureFotostep Fåglar/Birds October 20, 2009 at 12:32 am

I feel envy showing over me. Sweden is almost empty of birds now .

thanks for visiting my blog. Yours are really good. 🙂
.-= NatureFotostep Fåglar/Birds´s last blog ..Bird Photography Weekly #60 Skådande vid Björkvik – Birding at Björkvik =-.


Tabib October 20, 2009 at 12:53 am

Majestic Eagle. Great birds picture at the same perch.
.-= Tabib´s last blog ..Fraser’s Hill – Silver-eared Mesia Behavior =-.


Larry October 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

@NatureFotostep thank you very much

@Tabib thanks, the Turkey Vultures were everywhere


Amber Coakley October 20, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Hi Larry – what great luck! Even though I knew where your story was heading, I still felt the excitement of anticipation as I read your post. I have not seen my first eagle yet, but I’ll have my chance this fall/winter in my area.

You must be a loyal worker indeed to leave the scene you’ve shown here – I don’t know if I could have done it. Fantastic pics – great job!
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..Have a Look Inside – Osage Orange Fruit =-.


Larry October 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm

@Amber thanks for your constant encouragement. I love bird watching and photography is becoming very addicting. I’m sure you will be able to see eagles near you before the end of the year. When you do, I expect to see some of your great photos too.

As far as getting back to work goes, they pay me to be “on call” so when they call, I go. No choice involved there.


Amber Coakley October 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm

I’m totally with you on the addictiveness of nature photography. Pictures are my souvenirs of what I’ve seen – a memory I cannot forget. They are also a way for me to share the natural beauty I witness with people who are unable to go out into nature and see what I see. This hits close to home for me, as I imagine it might for others – so I am always enthusiastic about sharing those great photos!
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..Have a Look Inside – Osage Orange Fruit =-.


Scott October 23, 2009 at 2:49 pm

And I was excited to get a shot of a crow and turkey vulture on a stump…but your’s is quite picturesque.

Out here in Antioch, CA we get maybe the most of 5 0r 6 turkey vultures congregating together that I’ve seen. ~30 is definitely something that I have only come across a couple of times on Shasta Lake.

Great post!
.-= Scott´s last blog ..Digital Photos Depict Hummingbird in Flight =-.


Kevin October 24, 2009 at 7:12 am

Strangest group I ever saw, though small in comparison to yours, was feeding on a dead rabbit on U.S. 89 west of Bryce Canyon: Bald Eagle, Common Raven, and, the real oddball in the mix, a Great Blue Heron.


cindyzlogic October 26, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Some great photography, Larry! I really enjoyed your post.
.-= cindyzlogic´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.


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