Where The Birds Are

One day last month, when the sun was high, the air was cold and the frost was heavy and glistening in the surrounding pastures, I bundled up and headed out to my favorite bird watching place, Eagle Watch, just outside Gentry, AR. It was a perfect day, or so I thought, for watching eagles. The air temperature was twenty degrees, and I imagined watching great bald eagles swooping down in the chilly water of SWEPCO Lake, then soaring high in the sky, fish caught in their yellow talons. I imagined photographing all that activity as I made the 45 minute drive west , the rising sun in my rear view mirror.

I had no such luck. There were plenty of birds at the lake, just not the great majestic ones I had envisioned when I first woke up that morning. I stayed for about an hour anyway, just playing around and making pictures, enjoying the peace and quiet I always find when I visit Eagle Watch.

I decided to pack up and head home. As I was leaving Gentry, I decided on a whim to visit Siloam Springs Lake, just about 5 minutes from where I was. Sometimes I’ll have luck in spotting bald eagles flying around, and since I didn’t have anything else planned for the rest of the day, I turned my car west and drove to the lake.

And within five minutes of parking, I spotted my first bald eagle of the day perched in the top of a dead tree.

And then it was game on. I noticed across the lake, there was a flock of great blue herons rather agitated by a young juvenile bald eagle that kept making passes at the water and coming up empty. I decided to drive over to that side because, even though I was using my 80-400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached to my Nikon D5, I just wasn’t able to get the up closeness that I was after.

But before I got back in my car to drive over, I glanced up at the sky and saw this unfolding:

I’m not quite sure what the two eagles were doing, if the adult was showing the young juvenile how to do roll overs or if the two birds were just playing, but it was a beautiful sight to see. I loved how synchronized they were, like two fighter jets flying in formation.

When I arrived on the other side of the lake, that was when my breath continually started being taken away. The juvenile bald eagle that was giving the herons such fits, kept making passes overhead, just over the tops of the trees. He was so close that I could see his golden eyes glinting in the morning sun. At one point, I just had to put my camera down and whisper, “thank you” to him for allowing me to see such beauty above me, his golden brown feathered body pitched against that deep, deep winter blue sky. Over and over he soared above me, playing in the thermals, and I’m sure, checking me out below him.

I actually really like the juvenile bald eagles better than the adult bald eagles. Both are amazing birds in their size and their coloring, but the juveniles seem more ancient and like they’ve seen more of the world than their older counterparts, if that makes any sense at all.

“My” juvenile was just magnificent to watch.

The herons still weren’t very happy with the giant bird flying about, and they put on quite a show, too, trying to get rid of him.

I am so happy that I made that short drive over to Siloam Springs Lake. What a morning.