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

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
  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.