Posted in Field Study, On the Road, Photography, tagged Blue Jay, cat, covered bridge, eagle, Indiana, kitten, titmouse, turkey, turkey run, woodpecker on January 29, 2012|
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Photographer and friend Ernie Mills accompanied me on my annual West Union (Park County), Indiana bald eagle trip.
For particulars about where and when and what to expect visit my earlier post here.
We left home at 5:30 and arrived at the West Union Covered Bridge at 7:30 as planned. Several other folks had gathered to witness the eagles as they moved from their roosts to the Wabash River.
We saw about a dozen eagles rise above the ridge to the north and drop back behind the trees — loads of eagles, but none came too close. At one point we were able to see eight in flight at one time.
The sun broke over the horizon. The other birders had their eagle and got in their cars and left. Ernie and I remained to shoot the bridge and the landscape in the marvelous mid-winter light. We were joined by a pair of nearly identical kittens from a nearby farm. These little guys followed us the entire time (in fact one got in the car) and became the focus of many of our shots.
We left West Union following the Wabash to Montezuma. We parked near the river and walked across the old iron bridge. Mid-river I stopped and scanned the trees looking for birds and spotted a large bald eagle in the trees on river right. We crossed the road and doubled back.
On the way home we made a quick stop at Turkey Run State Park and photographed a few birds around the Nature Center bird feeding station. We walked into the woods and photographed ice, rocks and water.
On the drive home we came across a small flock of wild turkeys including some beautiful Toms. Ernie hit the brakes and we backed just in time to see them disappear into the trees.
In Crawfordsville Ernie spotted another bald eagle flying right over the downtown buildings. We followed it through a neighborhood and onto the Wabash College campus. Ernie got a quick shot before it flew out of range.
Ernie an I spent a week together in New England in October of 2010 and really had a great adventure. It was nice to be together and pick up where we left off.
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Two years ago I joined a large group to see bald eagles in Western Indiana. On a sub-zero winter dawn we gathered on a bridge and over the next hour we oberved about 50 bald eagles.
Since then I’ve wanted to return to this spot. As much as I enjoy the knowledge shared by a large group of birders, I enjoy being alone with my thoughts. Yesterday I took the opportunity to revisit the spot (on a much warmer day) and I was able to spend some time with over twenty bald eagles.
Indiana is the wintering ground for a large number of bald eagles. Many of these birds roost along Sugar Creek in Park County. When the sun rises these birds fly from their roosts and follow Sugar Creek to the Wabash River where they hunt for fish.
The West Union Bridge, northwest of Montezuma, crosses Sugar Creek near the its junction with the river.
I arrived about 15 minutes before sunrise. The sky was turning pink to the east when the first bird flew overhead. As the sun rose higher birds appeared more frequently — often in twos and threes. Eagles began to roost on two large trees several hundred yards downstream. They appeared to warming themselves in the brightening sunlight. It was wonderful to hear their vocalizations as birds repeatedly challenged one another for roost space.
The fun lasted for 45 minutes, or so. As I was leaving a pileated woodpecker began vocalizing and drumming at the end of the bridge.
Arrive at West Union Bridge about 10-15 minutes before dawn and park at the western end of the covered bridge. Stand on the modern, concrete bridge and watch for birds coming over the hills upstream. As the fly over look to see them roosting downstream.
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