Three-eagle day

Let’s just get this out of the way up front: the dish I made last week that I hoped to feature in a triumphant return to food blogging after several weeks of inactivity turned out to be okay, but not blog-worthy. I am sorry. However, I can’t resist making a quick post about our day today.

For a bit of a back story, in a stroke of genius I gave Mark binoculars for Christmas. Ostensibly they are for our trip to Tanzania (it’s an expensive trip so I’ve pledged to buy nothing but items we need for it until it happens, other than, of course, food), but I had another motive as well, which was to encourage him to start going to parks with me again. He got bored of going with me because I’m always stopping to take pictures of things he usually can’t even see. My plan worked; if anything too well. Now I’M the one impatiently waiting for HIM to catch up when we go to parks! Mark loves his binoculars so much he took this picture of himself to illustrate how he programs now:

Today after raccooning, I stopped by Mark’s office (Mark works from home, so stopping by his office meant walking down the hall of our house), where I found him looking suspiciously like he was working, on a Sunday. This exchange happened:

RENAE: Are you working?
MARK: Yes, but I’m not too happy about it.
RENAE: Do you have time to go out for a little while? Do you want to go binocularing?
MARK: [thinks for a moment, then...] Yes, yes I do. Let me find my shoes.

Then we had to decide where to go. We narrowed it down to Mason Neck State Park and/or National Wildlife Refuge (they are adjacent to each other), or Occoquan Bay NWR. I said that at Occoquan we’d probably see a larger variety of birds and if we were lucky perhaps turkeys or a fox, but that at Mason Neck we stood a fair chance of seeing an eagle. Although the odds were better of seeing a large number of more varied animals at Occoquan, seeing an eagle kind of trumps everything else. Nonetheless, Occoquan is closer so we ended up going there. I spied some turkeys soon after our arrival:

Walking along I was explaining to Mark that Occoquan Bay NWR is home to one or two nesting pairs of bald eagles but that I’d only ever seen a single eagle in all my many trips there. Mark said, “I want to see an eagle today.” I said, “well, it’s possible but I really don’t want you to get your hopes up because you’re probably not going to.” To which he responded, “oh, I’m getting my hopes up!”

If that conversation sounds familiar, it’s because we had the EXACT same exchange back in April: Mark said he wanted to see an eagle at Mason Neck and I said, “don’t get your hopes up,” and Mark replied, “my hopes are up,” and damn if we didn’t see an eagle two minutes later.

Guess what happened two minutes – I’m not exaggerating! – after Mark said he was getting his hopes up about seeing an eagle today? He scanned around with his binoculars and announced, “Yep, I see an eagle.” Now, like a lot of people, Mark has “see an eagle-itis”. I don’t know why it is, but there is some either human or American tendency to think that everything you see in the sky is an eagle. The raptor rehabber I work with has numerous stories of calls he’s gotten about eagles that have turned out to be anything from red shouldered hawks (which are much, much smaller than eagles and look nothing like them) to PIGEONS. He receives dozens of calls about injured eagles annually and I think in his many years of rehab only one has actually been an eagle. People think they see eagles ALL THE TIME when they do not. Mark, too, has many times claimed to be looking at an eagle when what he was really seeing was something else, so naturally I didn’t believe him…I mean, I’d JUST told him he probably wasn’t going to. Except I DID then see something white-headed in the direction he was pointing his binoculars. I aimed my telephoto lens at it AND DAMN IF IT WASN’T A BALD EAGLE.

HOW DOES HE DO IT???

Now, none of the pictures in this post are my best; in fact, they’re pretty crappy, but I’m sharing them anyway because, well, I’m obsessed with raptors. The eagle was pretty far away from me and like an idiot I’d left my tripod at home so I had to handhold my big lens, which can make it difficult to get sharp pictures. But here is the eagle flying from one tree to another nearby tree:

And where he landed:

After gawking at him for quite some time, we eventually continued on our way through the refuge, heading over towards the bay. As soon as we got to the water, I looked out to a small island and saw a dark shape at the top of a tree. A dark shape with a white head. Looking through my lens again I announced, “uhhhhhhhhh….eagle!”

So then we spent many more minutes admiring and photographing THAT eagle. Eventually we decided to move on, when Mark looked back for some reason or another. NOW GUESS WHAT:

I’m assuming this is a mated pair, although since they are in the middle of a narrow bay between two wildlife refuges, I don’t know in which one they reside.

Maybe this makes me strange, but in my opinion, seeing three eagles is the definition of “great day”! I think I’m going to coin an alternative to the phrase “red-letter day”: “three-eagle day”! Not only that, I got to share my three-eagle day with Mark. And not only that, but the setting sun threw beautiful colors over the bay at the same time (the island in this picture is the one the two eagles were on):

It was quite dark by the time we managed to make it out of the refuge. This is the last of the setting sun over Marumsco Creek:

In quick non-food, non-wildlife news, I took Heidi to her new home yesterday morning and although she was nervous and scared, she was totally happy to have her new companion person pet her – she even ate treats out of her hand! – and I feel really good that I made the right decision. I do miss her and feel bad that she probably feels like I abandoned her, but I saw signs yesterday that it’ll actually take her less time to adapt to her new home than I worried it might. I truly think she will be much happier there. Gomez and Torticia have been in extra high spirits since yesterday so I suppose they are happier too.

I shall be spending the upcoming days hoping a food post comes to me…if only because I have a backlog of raptor pictures to foist upon you!

4 Comments »

  1. FoodFeud Said,

    January 12, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

    So pretty pretty! He’s got an eagle eye for eagles!

  2. Josiane Said,

    January 12, 2014 @ 11:33 pm

    Well, if no food post comes, don’t hesitate to go ahead with the raptor pics!
    Also: hooray for a great day involving multiple eagle sightings, and for feeling good about the resolution of the cat situation!

  3. Nikki Said,

    January 13, 2014 @ 9:11 am

    What a fantastic find Nae! I did a little trail hiking and photography this weekend, myself. The weather was perfect for it! :) My goose picture isn’t nearly exciting as your eagles.

  4. Mark Said,

    January 15, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    I want to see an otter.

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