Bald Eagle

September 23, 2014 | Greg Dodge

Over the past few days, I’ve been seeing reports of increased numbers of raptors moving through various observation sites both in the mountains and along the coast. I also happened to see a report of Monarch butterflies staging at coastal sites, specifically Cape May, NJ. The push is on.

This is a time of anxiety for me. The North Carolina Piedmont, as wonderful as it can be, is not exactly a place where one can witness large numbers of birds, or butterflies, making the journey south in fall. I yearn to be at the coast.

Saturday, I told myself that I was going to see an eagle, either that or a Monarch butterfly. The winds were from the east, anything that was moving south between us, here in the Piedmont, and the coast could possibly be pushed towards us. The winds were not strong enough to bring birds or butterflies down, but light enough to allow for a bit of drift, good soaring, and plenty of lift–it felt right.

I kept an eye to the sky and it paid off. I first saw a speck of a bird approaching from the north, over the pines on the north side of the Wetlands. Almost immediately I could see it was an osprey. The bird circled a few times, inspecting our Wetlands from aloft, and then broke into a glide again, disappearing to the south.

An osprey sets course for S. America after scanning our Wetland (9/20/14).

An osprey sets course for S. America after scanning our Wetland (9/20/14).

Next, a local turkey vulture cruised by, then two very lofty black vultures.

While watching the vultures, I spotted a buckeye flapping frantically overhead. With my eye now on the buckeye, I noticed a larger, orange butterfly above and beyond the smaller lep. It was a Monarch. It too was moving south, with altitude and attitude.

Reasoning that an osprey and Monarch were good enough (I didn’t want to push my luck) I now felt better about the day. Then, out of the blue (literally), a large dark bird appeared. I threw up my bins. It was an eagle. Hah!

This immature bald eagle making is probably making its first trip south.

This immature bald eagle is probably making its first trip south.

I went to lunch.

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