Eagles. Especially Bald Eagles, as our national symbol, our very majestic birds. They perch high up with their stoic stares, and gracefully swoop low with astounding speed. In the San Juan Islands, there is one of the largest concentrations of mated pairs of Bald Eagles in the country. The only places that surpass us are located in Alaska! It’s a fun game to play how many tiny white heads you can spot in the green backdrop of the islands as we boat by.
We know where a few nests are located. These nests are not very complex. They are basically enormous piles of sticks shoved in between a few braches in tall trees. The nests can be bigger than a full grown human and weigh several hundred pounds, but often they blow down in the winter. They continually get bigger though because bald eagles mate for life and in the same area usually. So each year the nest accumulates a little bit more mass. Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are amazing hunters and very well adapted for catching prey in water and on land. Their eternally pissed off look comes from the fact that their skulls have a fold right over their eyes which acts as a visor to shield their eyes from the sun as they soar over an area searching for prey. These eagles only weigh between 10-14 lbs but can carry much more than that, and probably my favorite fact about these amazing birds is one of their aerial displays called “talon clasping” or “cartwheel display” where two eagles lock talons and fall hundreds of feet towards the ground until they both let go at the last moments before a deadly crash to fly away. Is it merely a courtship display or a death defying game of nerves? I believe one day we’ll understand it a little bit better. Until then folks don’t forget about all our other cool wildlife. See y’all soon!
(also side note Steve Miller of the Steve Miller band is selling his house currently on San Juan Island if you're in the market - fun facts!!)
Naturalist Erick Dowell
San Juan Outfitters