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Eaglefest at Windsor Lake…

January 8, 2019

If you look carefully – one of the young eagles – they are two, one year old juveniles on the left – is trying to catch a duck, who has the presence of mind to dive under the water just in time to save himself. The eagles made several attempts; came up short

This is the third or forth time I’ve been to Windsor Lake looking for eagles. Have spotted them there in the past. There is a lone tall tree at the northeast end of the lake where several years running I’ve seen a pair of bald eagles high up in the branches. Not unusual to see eagles high up in a tree, taking in the view for miles around. As eagles, like humans, are pretty much creatures of habit, I figured it was as good a place to start looking as any. From the parking lot a good quarter mile away, across the lake, there is an unobstructed view of the tree. After one gets in the habit of spotting eagles with a pair of good binoculars, which Nancy happens to have, from the parking lot I can already tell if the eagles are there. The upper branches of the tree provide a fine overview of the entire lake area, some 2.25 miles in circumference.

A quick look through the binoculars. No luck this time. No eagles in the said tree. But before I could get

A Canadian geese convention, one of two, on Windsor Lake. There was an even larger formation off to the left of this photo. Such a concentration of geese and ducks attracts all kinds of predators – eagles, coyotes, foxes, raccoons.  (R. Prince photo)

too disappointed, one flew no more than a couple of hundred feet above me, heading north on to the lake. I lost track of him temporarily but would catch up with him further on. And so, binoculars round my neck, my camera in a pack on my back, I started the lake walk. Most of the lake is frozen but there are two large pockets where the ice has melted and there, in both, are not hundreds but thousands of water birds, mostly Canadian geese, however among them easily spotted were also groups of golden eyes and like yesterday, common mergansers.

And “accompanying” the geese and ducks so to speak was not one by as many as seven bald eagles, not in the trees this time, but actually standing on the ice right on the edge where it had melted and formed within the surrounding ice, a small pond of sorts, in which there were what the eagles hoped would be tasty morsels of Canadian goose, common mergansers and golden eyes. At least two were full adults but the rest were youngsters, two and three year olds. From the shoreline where I first saw them they stood in a group of at least five – with two others standing a distance away – it appears they were congregated together and simply

Two bald eagles on the ice at WIndsor Lake, standing over a largely digested Canadian goose, no doubt discussing the current government shutdown…

patiently watching the geese and ducks trying to determine which one might be susceptible to be their next meal. But after looking at the photos on this computer it was clear that the adults at least were standing over their last meal, which was for all intensive purposes picked pretty close to the bone. In fact much of the time, their heads were down. They were eating. It was the adults that seemed to be doing most of the eating with the juveniles, identifiable by their coloring, off to the side.

Then every once in a while a group of two or three of them would take off – play with each other in the air and then swoop down to try to catch their own duck. But at least the times I was watching, the intended victim escaped by diving under water (as in the photo above). I saw the juveniles make three passes to no avail. They came up empty. They were just learning how to hunt and having a difficult time of it from what I could tell while the adults stood nearby, at the edge of the ice melt, eating their prey.

The key to the hunting frenzy are the high numbers of ducks and geese that are concentrated in the two small pools of ice melt on the lake. Makes them easy pickings… I also saw the remains of a number of geese (I think they were geese remains) on the shore at the edge of the lake – could be coyotes, raccoons, fox…who also probably work the ice at night.

2019 - 01 - 08 - windsor - 06 - golden eyes- editedThe golden eyes and common mergansers were present in large numbers as well. For years here in Colorado I’d only seen another variety of mergansers, – the hooded mergansers that a common in the ponds north and west of Denver where I like to tromp around. That was, until yesterday, when I saw a sizable group of them at Jim Baker Reservoir in southern Adams County just north of the Denver city line. There they were at Windsor Lake, a group of 40 or 50 of them in the midst of a mob of Canadian Geese. Nothing for five years and then twice in two days, and in two different spots 50 or so miles apart.

I’ve seen a lot of golden eyes, but not recently. by now they too appear to be back along the front range. A friend told me yesterday he’d seen some on the lake at City Park, in Denver. The ones at Windsor Lake are of the common golden eye variety. One can tell because the white patch under their eyes is round rather than sickle-cell shaped.

One year old juvenile bald eagle landing on Windsor Lake. The coloring on the inside of the wing – here – white and brown – is the typical markings of a one year old

 

 

 

 

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