Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday fauna: Where Eagles Dare to Eat Lunch

(Warning, kinda graphic image of dead animal further down the page, skip this one if you're squeamish.)

One of the noticeable steps in the transition from city slicker to farmer involves one's regard of the local fauna.

A couple of years ago, I would occasionally see a pair of bald eagles flying overhead, commuting back and forth between their nest somewhere and the river to our northwest.  I'd stop whatever I was doing and gawk.  Eagles!  They are big, they are impressive, they are beautiful as adults, they are symbolic, and really, they are well worth stopping and admiring.  The pair became a trio, and the juvenile spent a couple of weeks along our creek before it moved away to find new territory.

We are less than a month away from lambing and kidding here--a lot of the surrounding farms have lambs on the ground already--and I am mentally getting into the mode of worrying more about my animals.  A bald eagle will happily eat anything that looks dead, and a golden will kill for its lunch.  So my attitude towards the eagles has changed.  When I see when flying overhead, especially if they're flying kind of low, my thoughts tend towards "Hey, @#$%, get the &^%$# out of here and don't even  $%#^ing look at my $%@*ing animals!!!  @#$%!!!"

Well, yesterday was a busy day here for the eagles, and they had me good and riled up.  Adult and juvenile, bald and golden, they were flying over us all day, screaming and fussing.  It didn't take too long to realize that they were not worked up about any of our beasts, but instead about something just across the creek from us.

Our neighbor J. runs cattle over there, and his cows have been calving recently.  One little calf didn't make it--I couldn't tell whether it was killed by a predator or one of the myriad things that can off a young ruminant.  Whatever the cause, a day's work by the eagles left it rather diminished:

I didn't have the long lens that I needed to capture what I saw through binoculars as I approached the carcass, and which really can push you away from the "majestic symbol of our country" view of eagles and towards a more farmer-ish view.   It was a juvenile (but full-sized) golden eagle that had hit the calf buffet a bit too hard.  It had tried flying, but was weighed down with excess giblets.  So it just sat on the hillside above the carcass, basking in the afternoon sun, visibly engorged.  Through the lens, it looked less the majestic eagle and more like a sumo wrestler regretting that last helping of pie.  @$#%* better stay away from my animals.

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