The Intersection

A Picture From My Weekend

Why is it that all birdwatching trips seem to end up the same way: You trudge along lengthy forest trails and freeze your ass off, only to find at the very end that the bird you were searching for was sitting in the parking lot the whole time? Such was my experience this weekend.

On Sunday we went to Virginia, to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, to look for Bald Eagles and whatever else we could find. Except for some distant sightings of what may have been eagles, we didn’t see squat. But then, while stuck in traffic on the way back to Washington, D.C., what did we see but a majestic eagle (pictured below) sitting in a tree right off the roadside? Incredible.

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We pulled off onto the shoulder and snapped a bunch of pictures. None of the other drivers even seemed to be aware that the eagle was there. Boy did we feel cool and special.


  1. #1 pough
    February 21, 2006

    I know the feeling. I saw a pair of bald eagles (adult and mottled-brown young) standing on the ground under a tree just off a highway last year. They looked like they were sheltering from the sudden rain, but who knows? All I know is it took me a few seconds to register what I was seeing, so I ended up driving right past, even though I had my camera with me.

    They are impressive, aren’t they?

  2. #2 Craig Pennington
    February 21, 2006

    Sweet. Be glad it was Sunday and not Saturday if the cold got to you. I did my AM run on Saturday with a water bottle in a belt around my waist and by the time I was thirsty, about 30m into the run, there was a chunk of ice blocking the valve. Not cold by midwest standards, by too damned cold for my mid-Atlantic self.

  3. #3 GrrlScientist
    February 21, 2006

    birding is not for sissies!

  4. #4 David Wilford
    February 21, 2006

    I see bald eagles often, thanks to living near the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. The best sighting I ever had of them was near Boscobel, Wisconsin where I saw three juvenile bald eagles standing out in the middle of the Wisconsin River on the edges of ice floes looking into the water for fish, I presume. I’ve never see such a thing since.

  5. #5 Mark Duigon
    February 21, 2006

    Saturday, I saw another bald eagle down on the rocks of the Susquehanna River as I drove across Conowingo Dam (US 1). Most of the times I’ve seen eagles have been while driving (makes using binoculars interesting).

  6. #6 Jody
    February 21, 2006

    Chris, the answer is to bird watch in Southern California. “Freezing Cold” here is under 40 degrees and the only way your ass chaps is if you are bird-watching on a nude beach.

    Umm… or so I’ve heard.

  7. #7 Steven Thomas Smith
    February 21, 2006

    My all-time favorite bald eagle sightings were both in British Columbia:

    (1) During a canoe trip with my dad around the Bowron Lakes, we paddled right beneath two of them perched on a dead tree overlooking a huge expanse of swamp. We, the tree, and the eagles were the only things around for miles, and it was a pretty amazing sight.

    (2) While salmon fishing in the Queen Charlottes, I watched a literal swarm of bald eagles who circled and dove into the ocean for the same fish were were trying to catch. Right after they all flew off into the treetops, a huge right whale surfaced a few feet from our little outboard and watched us for a while before disappearing. We forgot all about the eagles and the salmon.

  8. #8 Niobe
    February 21, 2006

    It’s amazing what you see when you look up. I am in Florida, currently host to ~1300 breeding pairs (yes, that’s one thousand three hundred). This will not last, as development is a religion here, but for now. . . My fave sighting was in Osceola County, where one slash pine a few yards off Overstreet Road held 7 eagles: two full adults plus representatives of each year class up to adult. No, wait, my favorite was the wrestling match between two males that came so close I could see the pupils of their eyes–without binoculars and hear the insults they hurled at one another. Chris, go to Blackwater for eagles (and tundra swans).

  9. #9 Will McKenna
    February 22, 2006

    Birds are pretty.

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