Sandra and I went to Kansas City to see the play “Billy Elliot” over the past week-end. It was terrific! That 12-year-old kid is so talented and artistically mature. If you have a chance to see it-- go for it!
On Saturday, I met David Seibel for a trip to Wyandotte County Lake and the annual “Eagle Day” celebration which includes lectures and the opportunity to photograph several eagles that live around that pretty urban lake. There were two adults and some juveniles that appeared to be members of the same family. David is the official photographer for the Kansas City Parks system, and is a wise and well-informed guide. It was a productive and happy photographic escapade as you can see from these images.
I learned some interesting and amazing facts about the bald eagle. They nest in February, and inhabit Canada,the United States and northern Mexico. They are primarily a sea eagle and the northern birds migrate, while the southern birds (in Florida, for instance) do not. They return to the same nest frequently and add to it periodically. There is a nest in Florida that weighs over 3 tons-- that is a mansion! They live about 20 years in the wild; one tame bird lived about 50 years. They are usually shy and avoid people, however, in 2010 there was a successful breeding nest in Harlem. Documented dietary items include great blue herons, gulls, geese, and sea otter pups along the North Pacific coastline. They have also taken red-tailed hawks, great horned owls and turkey vultures. Their main food is fish in most areas, but they are adaptable, and not too finicky about what they eat. There is a documented report of a eagle flying with a 15 pound mule deer fawn.
In Kansas, there are about 60 active nests according to the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. There is a “famous” nest at Twin Lakes in Wichita that has eagles every year, but so far has not produced any offspring. Approximately 1,000 eagles come through Kansas following the waterfowl and also feeding on fish and carrion. Charlie Cope studies these birds for the dept. and reports that most of the reservoirs in the state have some nests nearby. Clinton Lake has four, which is the most at one location. The first documented nest in Kansas was at Clinton Lake in 1989.
It is a spectacular event to see these great birds in their mating rituals tumbling through the air with talons interlocked almost to the ground. Their prestigious designation as our National Bird is well-deserved, and if you get the chance to see them-- you won’t forget that experience. The outlet behind Milford Lake is a great spot for viewing or photographing these national treasures, and I hope everyone makes the most of this opportunity before the birds exit our state. I still remember the feeling I had when the eagle was released after rehab at our local Raptor Center out at the Wetlands Education Center. They certainly make a memorable event even more so. They make us proud and better people.
Doc Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.