Saturday, February 13, 2010

Merrimack River Eagle Festival

Today we watched Bald Eagles along the Merrimack River in Newburyport and Amesbury, MA. The Massachusetts Audubon Society put together its fifth annual eagle festival.

There were activities for kids and families, but we went just to see eagles along the river. Naturalists were stationed at 5 different locations, so if there were eagles around, we had help finding them.

Lucky for us, it was fairly warm out (the high 30's, about 4C) with little wind. So we weren't too cold!

In the morning we saw juvenile eagles from Lowell's Boat Shop, where custom dories and skiffs (wooden boats) have been made since 1793.

Plus, an exciting eagle fly by with 2 adult eagles and a juvenile while we stood on Deer Island.

View of Eagle Island from the downstream end of Deer Island

The birds flew out from Eagle Island across the river, maneuvering around each other, possibly competing for food. Bald eagles are kleptoparasitic, meaning they will steal food from each other or from other animals. They eat fish, carrion, birds and mammals.

Very exciting.

The adults flew back to their perch on Eagle Island while the juvenile flew over our heads.

It takes juveniles about 5 years to develop the distinctive white head and tail of an adult bald eagle.

We beat the rush for lunch at Michael's Harborside.

After lunch we made quick stops at Joppa Flats and Cashman Park - no eagles, but lots of shorebirds.

We spent quite a while watching a great blue heron, several goldeneyes, and a Northern Harrier from the parking lot of Ferraz Shawmut (which was open for the eagle festival....but which would normally not be open to the public). We had brief glimpses of a juvenile eagle at that site.

I'm barely in this photo - second to left behind a woman in black - see my blue arm?

We spent the rest of the time at the pumping station across the Merrimack River from Lowell's Boat Shop.

When we first arrived, a juvenile eagle landed on a branch of white pine over the river. The branch was bouncing up and down under the eagle's weight.

Just after I asked Jim how much longer we would stay, the eagle took off, flew across the river, touched the water quickly with its talons and pulled up a fish.

It landed on a piece of ice in the river and fortunately the tide was heading out so the ice was heading right toward us. As the eagle tore apart the fish, the ice got closer and closer to us.

After it finished eating, it took off and roosted in the trees again.

There's something about an eagle. My heart beats faster whenever I see one. They're spectacular birds.

We're already making plans to go back to Newburyport for more eagle viewing on our own. (I was so into the eagles that I didn't even stop at Loom with a View for a yarn fix.)

And, of course, we'll go back to the Eagle Festival next year!!

Map of the eagle festival (Shows good eagle viewing locations)


Anonymous said...

WOW!! The farmers' market we went to today was fun - but EAGLES?? That's just super awesome!!


Deanna said...

Absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing!!!

Theresa said...

How exciting. I'm with you Sue, seeing them in person always gets my heart going. You'll have fun keeping up with the local nesting pairs. I'm also always amazed at the sheer amount of nifty stuff to do in the general area.
Don't worry, Betsy will keep your yarn safe until you decide to come in and pick it out! ;-)

Delighted Hands said...

Loved this post! They are spectacular birds ; glad to see them like this!

Hilary said...

Great pics.......I am so jealous!!!

Jennifer said...

My heart is beating faster just looking at your pictures. I would have been on ahigh all day if not for the week!

Chris said...

Your photos are amazing. I get such a thrill every time I see an eagle. You just can't capture their size with a photograph. Did you get to see the harrier in flight? I've only see harriers 3 or 4 times and I love to watch them fly.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and exciting photos! What a great day. They are amazing birds. Maybe next time I go past the nest on the pole the eagles will be in residence.

Sara said...


How awesome to be able to see them up close and personal. I love eagles - they are so majestic. Glad you had such a good day.

bspinner said...

AMAZING!!!!!!! What fun you must have had!!!

Sharon said...

Those are great pictures. How nice of that eagle to do a dog-and-pony show right in front of you so we could see it too. I've had very few actual viewing opportunities and I was excited too. What a tremendous opportunity and day. It's hard to understand just how huge they are from photographs.

Renee said...

Wonderful pictures Sue! Actually, wonderful doesn't even come close to how fantastic they are.Even though Bald Eagles are quite common where I used to live, I never get tired of watching them, even when they ate my ducks and tried to steal my dog's ball in mid-air while I am throwing it for her. A couple of Bald Eagles were squabbling once and dropped a long past dead rabbit carcass in our yard. One of the eagles landed on our chicken coop roof. They are so huge and majestic up close and personal.

Marsel said...


Julie said...

What wonderful pictures! I so enjoyed looking at them all. Eagles are so beautiful and you would think where I live in a place called Eagle Mountain we would have them but I haven't seen any yet! But I did see a snow owl this year!

Synnøve. said...

Somehowe I cant stop singing an old ABBA song. Fly like an eagle, when I se your pictures.
Its a magnifisent bird.
Thank you for shering those pictures whit me.

Hugs from Norway.

charlotte said...

Absolutely amazing pictures! The pictures of the fish-catching eagle are just spectacular, you're extraordinarily lucky to have observed this in real life!

lottiesloomroom said...

WOW they are amazing! What a treat to see such an amazing spectacle!