Twenty-five degrees with a steady cold wind is no one’s idea of spring, but despite this week’s wintry weather I found two welcome signs that the season is indeed getting ready to change: a pair of golden eagles building their nest and a small group of trumpeter swans taking a break on their way north.
I’ve had my eye on a bald eagle nest that a pair of eagles has used the past few years, wondering when and if the eagles will return and start tidying it up. It’s in an old dead tree on the Missouri River, in a beautiful canyon that I wrote about last spring. Today was cold and windy, but sunny, so we headed out to check on the eagles. There was no activity at the bald eagle nest, but a mile further downriver we saw two eagles in the distance, above the cliffs on the opposite side of the river.
Golden eagles — playing with each other, spinning, diving, and totally flirting.
We sat and watched, and they soon started flying back and forth along the cliff, sometimes carrying sticks. They were working on a nest!
The nest was high up in the cliffs. I caught one of the eagles as he flew along the cliff face, and realized that I’d also captured a picture of a old nest on the cliffside.
We knew the new nest would be high up in these cliffs,
but we couldn’t find it until we could follow one of the eagles to it. The eagle landed on the cliff face, but even with binoculars we couldn’t be sure that what appeared to be a nest wasn’t just a bush. I took a photo anyway, and when I zoomed in, we could see that we’d actually gotten a picture of the golden eagle sitting in the nest. How cool.
Now that I know where the nest is, I’ll be back in the coming months to see what happens with this eagle family.
And it wasn’t just nesting eagles signalling a new season. In a patch of ice-free water at the edge of a nearby lake, in the middle of a noisy flock of Canadian geese I discovered a small group of trumpeter swans resting on their way north. There will be more and more in the coming weeks, along with snow geese, and soon both meadowlarks and bluebirds will return as well. The geese panicked as I got close, but the swans just regally moved away…