East Texas Naturalist Blog

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Eaglet Update - It's Getting to be That Time Again!

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I came across this photo the other day of an immature from about this time last year, spreading its wings and soaring over Lake O' the Pines.  

They've been here all along, but as cool, crisp temperatures arrive, we will be getting out on the lake more, and as all biridng activity picks up, there will be opportunities for more sightings.  Up close and personal sightings - not just the quick fly-bys of late.  

As I was crossing Alley Creek one day last week, seemingly out of nowhere a mature eagle flew from one side of the bridge to the other; I pulled over and watched as he circled the upper end.  In Lakeside Park another day, there was a huge Bald Eagle sitting in the once flourishing - but now very dead after the high water - pine tree at the end of the point by the Opsrey tower.  When the tree was alive and healthy, this was a favorite lookout for many birds, but most notably for eagles.  For years I would look there first, but it seemed like as the needles died, only the woodpeckers cared to frequent the branches.  I had gotten out of the habit of checking this tree, and this just goes to show that if you keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll see or where you'll see it.  Wow, and isn't that all just part of the beauty of nature? 

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Eaglet Update - Elusive Sightings

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The Bald Eagle population, including immatures, is definitely active on Lake O' the Pines as we near fall.  We haven't been able to get shots from the water this past rainy month because of the obvious, including those  random outbursts that we've had almost daily. I can attest that there is activity because every time I've had a chance to go on foot to Lakeside Park, Alley Creek, or Hurricane Creek during this time, I've spotted at least one eagle.  From land, they are typically more evasive, so I have lots and lots of hurried shots as they navigate themselves to a place on the lake where I am not.   

One misty morning last week, I got a very distant photo of an immature eagle fishing in Hurricane Creek from Lakeside. They have a way of flying when hunting that is unmistakable.  It was too far away to be a decent image, but it did my heart good to see those massive wings beat above the water, circle, then go down for that split-second grab. Get ready. We have a lot to look forward to this fall around Lake O' the Pines.  

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Eaglet Update - Trying to Stay Cool over Lake O' the Pines

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Eagle Blog Pine Tree
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Trudging in to the backside of Lakeside Park over the weekend, gear in tow. . . I hear the WHOOSH of a pair of very large wings.  Without a second to spare, I am able to grab my camera and get a shot of an immature Bald Eagle as it flies from the tree, sails over Brushy Creek, and crosses over the top of the dam.  High in the frame though it is, I was just lucky to get a focused image.  Can I be sure that it is one of the eaglets we watched as hatchlings to fledglings earlier this year?  No.  Do I believe that it probably is?  Yes!  

We were able to check the island where the nest is last week, and saw one of the parents hiding in the shade of the pine needles.  This insufferable heat is apparently hard on our feathered friends, too.  They are not any more likely than we are to be baking in the hot afternoon sun.  As we watched for a minute, I caught a glimpse of an immature eagle in the dense pine thicket.  As the heat lets up and we transition to fall and all the blessings that come with that marvelous time of year - cooler days being only one of them - I believe we will see our first-year eaglets, Liberty and Freedom, as they soar over this beautiful body of water we are so privileged to call home.  Bring it on.  

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Eaglet Update - Independence

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As we had hoped they would, Liberty and Freedom are staying close to the nest - and to each other - as they gain independence and learn to fend for themselves.  When you look at these big, strong birds, it is hard to imagine that they were hatched the first week of March! 

As immatures, they are harder to spot because they blend into the surroundings easily; what stands out are their very powerful and bright yellow talons.  It has been so amazing to be able to witness the very attentive parents nurturing and watching over these two, and it's encouraging to see the Bald Eagle population increase at Lake O' the Pines. We've had more sightings on the Big Cypress River, as well, which may be one of the positive effects of all the extra water this past year.  

The coolest thing is that Freedom and Liberty will mature and grow and stay in this area, and one day we may be able to watch them raise their families.  In the meantime, we'll share photos as they hunt and soar and thrive over Lake O' the Pines, adding to a community that is simply awe-inspiring!

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Becoming a Birder is Incredibly Easy Except for the Hard Part - 4 Stages of Learning

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I was late becoming a birder. Oh, there was always some interest, but never strong. It was just a another feature of nature, that I, as a biologist and naturalist, wanted to have some familiarity. My real focus was on herps, reptiles and amphibians. Actually, it started with snakes, gradually began to include lizards, then turtles and on to frogs, toads & salamanders. Mammals were in the picture, too. By the time I was around 12 or 13, my bedroom and backyard was like a zoo - cages and aquariums everywhere. I didn't ignore birds for I did come up with lots of "abandoned" birds that I ended up raising. Of course, I know now that few of those birds were really abandoned, but was ignorant of that fact then. I "raised" a couple of Blue Jays, a Mockingbird, two Crows, a Turkey Vulture, and numerous Sparrows.

Later, as a biology student and then as a biologist, I was in the field a lot. While none of my work involved birds, I always made a point of getting to know the local species. Honestly, all I cared about were the more commonly seen species and it was just a mild curiosity.

I should add that I was doing a lot of photography back then as well. Birds were rarely a target for my cameras. I was mainly taking slides and photos of herps, flowers, insects, spiders and lots of scenics. Most of my gear was suited for closeup photography and not birding.

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