Caturday: Imperious Raptors

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 16 2013 8:00 AM

Raptorday

Colorado is rich in wildlife. I’ve seen a bit of it out on hikes and such; moose, elk, coyotes, the odd fox and hare.

I’ve also seen some bald eagles, but usually they’re pretty far away. Sometimes far enough that’s it’s hard to tell if they’re eagles or not; a hawk with its feathers catching the sunlight masquerades well as an eagle to my inexperienced birding eye.

Advertisement

But then, sometimes, they’re close enough that the distinction isn’t so hard to make.

Eagles
Taking wing.

Photo by Phil Plait

Driving home from the airport last week I saw this pair sitting on a power pole. They were obvious even from hundreds of meters away. I see a lot of hawks on these poles, imperiously gazing over their territory, eyes sharp for rodents or other potential snacks. An eagle is clearly different; larger, with that vividly white-feathered head.

eagles51_590

Photo by Phil Plait

I drove home to get my camera and see if my daughter wanted to come look. She did, so we went back out, and fortunately the pair was still there. Unfortunately, the only place to park the car was right next to the pole. The eagles weren’t thrilled with that (they glared down at us with a look that was seriously chilling) and took off. I was able to catch one just as it took off, in the first picture above, as well as both of them flying away.

eagles69_590

Photo by Phil Plait

They flew to another pole, a few hundred meters down the road. As my daughter drove, I snapped a few more pictures of them settling in. We stopped at a gas station on the way back home, and saw them circling around over a field for a while. They were pretty far, and again if I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have been able to tell they weren’t hawks. But knowing what they were, well… it was pretty cool.

I have to wonder if this is the same pair I saw back in 2009, also sitting on a pole. That pair was young, and bald eagles live for 20 years or so, so it’s possible. Either way, I know there are nesting grounds in the area around Boulder, so I think I may have to spend some time viewing them. These birds are truly magnificent, and a wonder to behold.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Related Caturday Posts:

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.