We took a boat tour down the lower Connecticut River yesterday afternoon and saw bald eagles and ospreys and loons and cormorants. We passed through three separate eagle nesting territories and saw their giant stick nests high in the trees, all inhabited with nesting pairs.
Not visible in this photo, but clearly seen through binoculars, were the eagle parents, who were sitting high up because there are hatched chicks in the nest. Breeding is well underway this spring.
Through binoculars we could see the eagles dipping their heads and craning necks, feeding their chicks.
Both males and females take turns leaving the nest to soar above, hunting the river for fish to bring back to the nest.
It was a guided tour, so the naturalists on board the boat educated us on eagle behavior, how they court and nest and hunt the river and raise their young. They know these birds as individuals, and they know which eagle dad is an indifferent hunter and sketchy nest sitter, which couple failed to raise their young successfully last year, and which juvenile had yet to figure out that you can't catch a fish by its tail, it has to be heads up.
It was all fascinating, but almost beside the point when an eagle parent took to the sky and all that mattered was how majestic this bird is against blue sky and rolling clouds.
Eagles do not fly, or even soar or glide. They simply own the sky. They are motionless, barely moving their huge wings as they ride the air.
The Connecticut River is a fact of life I've grown up with -- it bisects our tiny state right down the middle and you have to cross it all the time to go anywhere here. What a different perspective to be on it, in a small(ish) boat, seeing the marshes and islands and wild rice and abandoned stone quarries up close.
The highlight, of course was seeing bald eagles.
There were plenty of osprey pairs too, and we learned about them from the naturalists and checked out their stick constructions of nests and watched them soar to hunt too. We spotted all the other birds along the river, and ogled the expensive houses along the river bank and kind of froze to death in the chilly April air on deck.