Previously, Bald Eagles seen at Salter Grove have been rare and solitary. It was therefore a great surprise to see five of them around North Cove the morning of December 15, 2021.
During 90 minutes of observations from the causeway the eagles were mostly at rest, enjoying the sunshine on the large rocks and breakwater near Marsh Island, or roosting in two very tall tree crowns above houses on the western shore. They must have dined well recently because none of the eagles bothered to steal fish from gulls busily feeding nearby. Despite their majestic bearing, Bald Eagles are well-known kleptoparasites!
Based on their plumage, two of the five eagles appeared to be first-year birds (dark beak, eyes and body), two were second-year birds (lightening beak and eyes, grayish head, and a dark body mottled with white), and the fifth eagle was a third-year bird (yellow beak and eyes, and lighter head). None of the five had the emblematic adult plumage of a brilliant white head and tail, which takes at least five years to develop.
Eagle families ordinarily disband as soon as the young are able to feed on their own, and members migrate separately to suitable wintering grounds. An ideal site would include very tall trees for roosting and a large expanse of open water with plentiful fish or other prey like small waterfowl and mammals. Studies at communal roosts along rivers in California, Oregon, and Minnesota reported maximum counts approaching 500 Bald Eagles!
Whether the group of five eagles will stay in the park through the winter remains to be seen, but it was certainly an ornithological treat of the year for FoSG volunteers Carolyn Hardie, John Hegnauer, Jason Major, and Marina Wong.
Photos by Jason Major