Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vultures and Eagles

Adult Bald Eagle

    Turkey Vulture (TV) Migration over Southeast Michigan reaches its peak around the middle of October every year.   Yesterday October 12, 2012   favorable conditions resulted in a total of 10,000  TVs counted at the Lake Erie Metropark (LEMP) hawk count.   As many of the birds passed to the south of the count area my friend Pat Mulawa and I headed south to the Point Mouillee State Game Area HQ to get a better view. 

Kettle Of Turkey Vultures

    Several groups flew almost straight over head providing me with some nice photo ops as Pat scanned the skies picking out other hawks and eagles.

Immature Turkey Vulture  (note dark head)

Immature Bald Eagle showing lots of white on its belly

   Pat marveled at the symmetry of the wing pattern  of the Bald Eagle pictured below.  Later when I zoomed in on the display screen on my camera, I noticed that pattern resembled eyes with the symmetry broken by the eye on the birds right wing (our left) being open and the left wing eye closed in a winking manner.  Eyespot mimicry is an evolutionary defense mechanism where animals with spots that look like big eyes are less likely to be preyed upon.  Animals that benefit from this,  range from Tiger Swallowtail larva to Buckeye Butterfly adults to Four-eye Butterfly Fish to the Servals of Africa.  The pattern on this Eagle's wing has nothing to do with that because it already looks menacing enough and it resides at the top of its food chain.  More likely it has to do with the human brain trying to make sense of patterns.  That's how perceived images of Elvis, Jesus and the Virgin Mary are interpreted as messages from beyond in everything from toast, pizza pans, stains on overpasses, tree bark and  lastly and definitely leastly (I'm not making this up) no disrespect intended...... dog butts.   

Another immature Bald Eagle with winking owl pattern
Uncropped photo of previous bird shows its great altitude more accurately
   The distant birds in the above and below photographs look pretty similar but while I was taking photos of the second bird Pat was watching it with his spotting scope and was able to see the telltale wing patches that are characteristics of an Immature Golden Eagle.  

Vastly different bird at similar altitude

Cropped version showing white wing patches of immature Golden Eagle
    The Golden Eagles migrating through Southeast Michigan are most likely coming from their breeding grounds in Northeast Ontario and Northern Quebec at least 600 miles away. It's always pretty cool to see them pass over. This one here is one of the early ones as the peak of the migration at LEMP is between October 20- November 10.   Show up at the LEMP Hawkwatch site during that timeframe on a day with light winds with a northerly component to them and you most likely will get to see a Golden.  If you're lucky you'll get a view like the one I got last year on October 28 when the bird below flew almost straight overhead at a relatively low altitude.   I'd been trying for years to get that shot. 

Golden Eagle at Lake Erie Metropark 10/28/11
Same bird only closer

1 comment:

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