Bald Eagles and Blooms

Jun 07, 2013
Kelly Madden's hike at Whychus Canyon Preserve is filled with wildlife sightings and good friends.

By Kelly Madden

One of the best parts of being a Deschutes Land Trust Volunteer is meeting folks who are like-minded about the natural world. Last week, Jane Meissner, Derek Loeb, and I headed out for a wildflower hike at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Early on Friday morning as we were driving near Tumalo, we all spotted it at the same time: a HUGE bald eagle about 75 feet away!

Two aggressive and mated red-tailed hawks that had made a nest on the top of Laidlaw Butte attacked the eagle. The birds paid us no mind as they battled. The hawks swooped down on the Eagle, who hopped on its feet and spread its large wings, levitated in the air, caught a draft, and lifted off the ground while the hawks continued their attack.

The red-tailed hawks were half as big as the eagle, but they were relentless and somehow managed to shoo the eagle away. The hawks swooped down to attack and the Eagle did an effortless double 360 in the air to get away. Slowly the eagle drifted over the reservoir and flew back towards Three Creek Lake.

Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are not the majestic and dignified bird that people imagine. I thought for the longest time that they only fished for food and could hunt with “eagle eyes” to get big fish to feed on. It just isn’t like that. Although Bald Eagles are usually associated with water, they can live in any habitat with available prey. They consume many different kinds of prey depending on where they live. Eagles at Lake Billy Chinook eat a lot of kokanee salmon. Eagles near my house eat rodents, carrion and small birds. Wintering and migrant eagles often feed on large mammal carrion, especially road kill deer, domestic cattle that die of natural causes, still born calves and the afterbirth (YUCK!), waterfowl, squirrels and rodents and fish. That doesn’t sound very majestic to me.  

After our stunned and reverent observation, we went to Whychus Canyon for a glorious wildflower hike. We saw lots of blooms and I learned and re-learned many of them. We encountered sulpher flower, arrowleaf balsamroot, paintbrush, yarrow, penstemon, and many, many more. I was glued to Jane who knows the name of all the flowers. She is an encyclopedia!

It was such a great day that just thinking about it makes me smile. The best part for me is that we can prattle on for a long time about history, my latest discoveries and all my nerdy activities and they listen and care! I am very thankful to meet such intelligent and kind and committed volunteers. Thanks guys!  I will keep an eye on the Eagle for you!

Birds of Oregon, a General Reference:  Marshall, Hunter and Contreras. Oregon State University Press. 2003
Sagebrush Country, A Wildflower Sanctuary: Taylor, Ronald, Mountain press Publishing,1992