Golden Eagle # 49 has Entered the Building

You know the drill: Someone claims to see a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) but then some wise-ass bird expert has to tell them that "Immature bald eagles are often mistaken for golden eagles. You saw a bald eagle, not a golden eagle." Reminds me of the bird expert lady in The Birds (which we watched just the other day) ... boy was she wrong!

Anyway, golden eagles have been traversing the state of Minnesota, and occasionally wintering here, for quite some time, and only recently are people really taking notice, counting them as real, and even starting to study them.

So, it was very exciting to hear the news today that Golden Eagle # 42 has crossed the border from Canada into northern Minnesota, and is at this moment in one of the northern conties not far from Rainey River. (Linux users know of Rainy River as a Canadian town that your system defaults to if you point to "Minnesota" as your location ... which in turn explains why your spell checkers want to use British English. But I digress.)

This is an eagle that had been injured in a trap a while back and rehabilitated at the Minnesota Raptor Center, tagged with a GPS locater and transmitter, and released.

These suckers eat wild turkeys.

Here is a story with audio interview from MPR.

And just for fun, here is last Srping's story from MPR on the same project.

And here is where I said there were golden eagles around but nobody believed me!
Live up to it, suckers!

(Well, Eagle Guy Scott Mehus has had it right all along too.)

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Golden eagle chicks were introduced during the 1980s, on a hill not far from where I live. We would occasionally see these beautiful creatures soaring by our windows. No one believed us, either.

It would be hilariously funny if the golden eagle had swapped the gps device with his friend, an immature bald eagle.

Greg, one time on a road trip I was southbound on US 287 in Wyoming. Somewhere between Muddy Gap and Rawlins, I think. It was winter and there was a snow storm going on. Not much wind but one hell of a lot of snow. Flakes the size of clenched fists and falling thick enough to slow my progress to under forty miles per hour. Visibility about and eighth of a mile. The kind of conditions that seem to interfere with depth perception; without distant reference points it's hard to accurately judge size and distance.

To counteract the effect I was focusing on the fence line along the east side of the highway because I know how high a fence post is and could therefore feel more assured of my 3D sense. At some point I noticed that a fence post coming into view seemed to be taller than the rest. I thought about what could account for that, a narrow ridge running under the fence, a makeshift replacement post or maybe a power pole that just appeared to be on the fence line.

I got closer and could see that the topmost of the post wasn't post shaped; it had subtle curves. A little closer and I began to suspect that there was a bird atop the post, and a big one. I backed off the throttle a bit and as I drew near it slowly dawned that it was a Golden Eagle. I backed off some more to gawk and started to grin

This fierce predator sat atop the post with its feathers fluffed, its head pulled down and I swear its shoulders were hunch up just like someone waiting for a bus on a blustery day. It looked straight ahead as I was passing, giving no acknowledgment of my being there.

I was chuckling as I drew abreast but then was struck silent. On the ground, flanking the post left and right, were two more Goldens posed identically in grim,stoic acceptance of their inconvenience and discomfort. Their collective countenance was eloquent.

I still laugh at the memory and reflect that had I broke down that day in that storm, I would have appeared to a passing motorist just as those three grounded eagles appeared to me. Huddled, sullen, resigned, grounded. Raptors have always intrigued me but ever since that day I've felt a deeper kinship with the Goldens.

It was a very lucky encounter, a rare vignette of private life in an odd moment. To be any more fortunate I would have been able to take a photo, but no. So only memory can serve.

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 26 Oct 2009 #permalink

Crudely: Nice story.

Regarding: had I broke down that day in that storm, I would have appeared

.... or maybe disappeared ....

Hi, Greg, I find it odd that noone believed in Golden Eagles in Minnesota, given that Hawk Ridge has been reporting them annually since 1972. Their numbers went up dramatically about 15 years ago, but that seems to correlate with an increase in hours -- probably extending their season later into the year.

I find it strange as well. It is especially strange standing there (two years ago) in the Raptor Center rehab facility looking at a golden eagle recovered from a road accident in southern MN as the guide explains "There are no golden eagles in Minnesota ... what you saw, if you think you saw one, was an imature bald eagle..."

My daughter asked "Where's this one from"

"Oh, southern Minnesota"

"OK, but then ..."

"And over here we have a nice barn owl to look at"

I think its just that golden eagles are so cool and rare that it is better to deny that they exist than to have a lot of false positives. But I'm not sure.

Anyway, the denial is about nesting and residency, not migratory fly-thru, but this denial has extended to denying any sightings at all.

On Monday, 9/19 around 8:30 am I was driving south on the Bridge of Hope (Highway 15; over the Mississippi from Sauk Rapids to Sartell/St. Cloud) and an eagle flew up from the trees on the island under the bridge over the side of the bridge and right over my car. I've seen Golden Eagles at the Renaissance Festival and we see Bald Eagles along the river in that area all of the time (we saw one pull a fish out of the river one day on the same bridge). I'm pretty sure this was a Golden Eagle. It was that brown/auburn color and had some white spots. Once I got over my surprise I was amazed at how huge it was. A great way to start the day.

By Cheryl Ley (not verified) on 23 Sep 2011 #permalink