I had just pulled into the driveway, and was unloading groceries, when the Bald Eagle swooped in and alighted on its usual perch high up in Jim’s old Willow tree. I put the bags down, went quietly into the house, came back out with my camera, and began shooting from the front deck. This was the first photo-op when the light was in my favor, and I didn’t want to blow the chance.

After clicking for about a minute, I stepped off the deck to get closer, and the eagle promptly flew off. Did I spook it? Probably, although it had not stayed long in the willow during its last two visits, nor had it seemed bothered by my presence on the ground. It was 6:10 pm on April 2, 2012.

The shot of the eagle departing (right) is blurry because I was intent on getting a good photo of the great bird perching. I knew it would fly off at any moment. To catch it in flight, I would need a very fast shutter, but that would have lessened my portrait image quality. So I forsook the speed, and opted for the quality.

I offer the flight photo, blurry as it is, to convey some idea of the vast wingspan of this majestic bird, some eighty inches for adults. Early one recent morning, the eagle flew directly over my house at tree-top height, just as I was raising a shade. I had but a moment’s glimpse straight up at those broad wings. Only then did I fully appreciate the great size of this iconic bird.

A few bald truths about the Bald Eagle, via my friend, Robin: Not only is it a mighty hunter, but also an habitual scavenger, eating offal, carrion and garbage when available. The male and female share duties on the nest. With eyes larger than most birds,’ and eyesight eight times better than ours, it can spot a field mouse or vole on the ground a mile away.

From my neighbor, Jim: One of the pair we saw back in January must now be on the nest. That makes sense. According to The Sibley Guide to Birds, young Bald Eagles in northern climes (such as ours) are fully fledged and independent by August. The adult male and female look alike — the female being slightly larger — so we don’t know which one is on the nest at any given time, and which we’re seeing in the air.

From my neighbor, Andrea: Squirrels and chipmunks are scarce this spring, in striking contrast to the mobs that shared our yard in recent years. I saw a few squirrels and one chippie a few weeks back, during that early warm spell, but none since — except for one fluffy gray squirrel named “Ham” (above) that showed up recently. There are several reasons, well recognized, why small mammal populations can vary from year to year. The presence of raptors could certainly have a local effect. I hope the little, furry creatures come back; I miss their joie de vivre.

Update: This post was originally published as, New Bald Eagle Photos. Sorry for any confusion.

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