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July 2012
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Bald Eagle drama
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 2:26 pm

Here is a series of images from yesterday morning’s walk at Nelson Lake/Dick Young Forest Preserve in Kane County, Illinois. The water level in Nelson Lake was very low and there were extensive mud flats. While I was observing the hundreds of Killdeers and a few peeps that were congregated along the edge of the water, I photographed them from the east observation deck.

The total unobstructed view was about 110-120 degrees. This panoramic image, stitched from three separate overlapping photos, includes 108 birds that can fairly safely be counted as Killdeers. There are 9 other birds that look like sandpipers, and 5 blackbirds and starlings. (To better visualize the birds and perhaps provide a more accurate count, click on the photo and select the original size image.)

Nelson Lake Pano 20120712

I suddenly saw two adult Bald Eagles fly in and appear to be circling a small area near the middle of the remaining lake, about 1/4 mile away. As they were beyond the range of my 10x binoculars, I found it difficult to determine the exact prey that these two eagles were trying to catch.They seemed to be hunting cooperatively, taking swoops at what looked like a female Mallard accompanied by a smaller but longer-necked bird that looked like a Pied-billed Grebe. There appeared to be several ducklings in the water and in the grass that is now growing out of the shallow water.

I captured this image just as one of the eagles hovered overhead the prey and the other flew in low from the right and appeared to be aiming for one of more of the ducklings. (Again, click on photo for enlarged images.)

Eagles attack duck 20120712

The “attack” eagle apparently missed its target. Either the duck or the eagle caused the splash that can be seen in this photo, taken less than one second later than the first.

 Eagles miss duck 1 second later 20120712

The eagles circled and a few seconds later attacked a second time. The photo reveals that there is a long-necked swimmer next to the adult duck– I believe it may be a Pied-billed Grebe.

Eagles attack duck second time 20120712

Less than a half second later, the “attack” eagle closes in.

Eagles attack duck second time half sec later 20120712

It appears to be aiming for the ducklings (or baby grebes?) that are gathered at the edge of the grassy area to the right of the adults. Again, note that there are two (apparent) adult birds.

Eagles attack ducklings second time half sec later 2-20120712

The eagle lifts off– I thought it missed the target again, as its talons appear to be empty.

Eagles attack ducklings second time full sec later 2-20120712

However, this photo, taken 32 seconds later, shows that the second of two cooperative attempts appeared to have been successful, as the first eagle departed with a small prey item– a duckling? (I had to greatly sharpen the image to better demonstrate the eagle’s talons holding the prey).

Eagle carries away duckling - enhanced 20120712

Only eleven seconds later, the other eagle makes a pass for the ducklings and they are seen diving to safety. Here the fleeing adult looks more like a grebe than a duck.

Second eagle misses ducklings 20120712

Finally, the second eagle circled and then departed the scene.

Second eagle departs 20120712