FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).

 

Welcome to Discover the James

Discover the James is your source for adventures on the James River in and around Richmond, Virginia. Our focus is to educate and inspire while viewing wildlife and history on the river or during our fishing trips. The James, in many ways, is as it has been for 15,000 years, but to find it you have to look and listen to the elements around you.

DiscovertheJames.com shares our adventures of this historic river through text, images and stories.  Discover the majesty of the river through an Eagle Tour or enjoy the tranquility of fishing the James River for sunfish, catfish or shad. We offer public and private tours for our wildife and history based tours, while all of our fishing trips are private tours.  All tours are good for up to six passengers.  

Call or email with questions or to book an outing. 

 

For more information or to book an excursion:
Contact Capt Mike at 804-938-2350 or Mike@DiscoverTheJames.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Top Photo: This photographic collage is a mixture of "Varina", a resident bald eagle, and the evening moon", along with Capt. John Smith's map of 1612. The photo of Varina was taken by Lynda Richardson during a Bald Eagle Tour. Varina was perched on the top of a tree, and luckily, the evening moon was setting in the southwestern sky, offering up the perfect background. --Photo by Lynda Richardson, Collage by Discover the James 

Above, left photo: A Discover the James favorite from our "kids & fishing" photos. This young angler just caught his first fish EVER and neeedless to say, he was an excited new angler! This shining moment of his "first fish" ... captured forever ... there's nothing better! --Photo by Discover the James

 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Eagle Observations: July 14 - August 14, 2020

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Sun, 08/16/2020 - 11:32
Eagle Observations (from July 14 through August 18, 2020)
 
The Chesapeake Bay’s resident bald eagle population crashed so deeply that by the mid 1970’s bald eagles were locally extinct, or extirpated on the James River and on the verge of total collapse in Virginia and throughout the Chesapeake Bay states. Today, the James River is considered the “greatest comeback of the bald eagle in the entire continent”, and here is why.
 
Reproduction is the means of survival for all species. In the 1940’s a pesticide called DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltricholorethane) was being widely used. DDT worked its way from the land to the water, and into the fish/food source resident eagles would eat and ultimately into the resident bald eagle population. Essentially, DDT blocked the eagle’s ability to produce calcium and when laying eggs, they were too thin and brittle and would break upon incubation, hence, no reproduction. In roughly the life span of a bald eagle, about 25 to 30 years, the collapse of the resident bald eagle population had become an environmental disaster.
 
In 1975, resident eagles had completely disappeared from the James River … we had no/none/zero resident eagles on the entire 10,000 square miles of the James River watershed. 
 
Thankfully people began to understand how much of a threat DDT was to wildlife. In 1972 DDT was banned and the “Clean Water Act” was being passed. These two milestones, in combination, set the stage for a comeback no one had imagined possible for the bald eagle. Most importantly was the banning of DDT, but the Clean Water Act was the synergy needed.  Additionally, in the 1970’s, blue catfish and gizzard shad were stocked in the James River, and became a year around food source for resident eagles.
 
Seven years after the banning of DDT, and four years after the extirpation of bald eagles on the James, something wonderful happened. In 1979, a pair of eagles built a nest and created a territory on Upper Chippokes Creek in the lower tidal James River. In early 1980, their first breeding season, they had success, and thus began the return of the resident bald eagle on the James River. 
 
Resident bald eagles on the James River have been counted annually (from a plane) since 1962, and today, the Center for Conservation Biology continues these efforts. For a great article on this, click here.
 
Slowly but surely, resident bald eagles reoccupied territories in the tidal James, building nests and having successful breeding seasons. The eggs were viable and young eagles thrived. repopulating the James and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Bald eagles mature at the age of four to five years and can then find a mate and a territory. These offspring repopulated the Bay’s watershed, including the James. Today in 2020, the James River’s watershed has 319 pair of resident bald eagles and those numbers slowly climb each year/season. 
 
Going from “Zero” to 319 pair (638 eagles) of resident bald eagles is what has earned the James River the title of “The Greatest Comeback of the Bald Eagle in the Entire Continent.” This is a real life environmental success story and shows what can be accomplished when nature is considered, as well as an indicator of the River’s improved health.
 
Locally, in Jefferson’s Reach, the eight pair of eagles fledged seven eagles, which is just below the average of 1.3 fledglings per nest for bald eagles on the James. Four of the pair failed and four had successful breeding seasons, so for the four successful pair, it was nearly two per nest.
 
To recap, the first eaglet to fledge, Lorna, was on May 10, during the first breeding season for new comers Henry & Duchess, who had two fledglings. Mondo, in the photograph to the right was their second eaglet to fledge. Henry & Duchess’ two fledglings left the area early. This new pair did not waste any time teaching their offspring the basic survival skills a young eagle needs, such as learning how to hold a fish on a branch, how to steal fish from other eagles and osprey, and ultimately, how to swoop down onto the rivers surface to grab a dead catfish or shad. And those are just the skills that we can see them teach.
 
Baba & Pops had two fledglings on the nest, but only one ever showed itself in the air, so their total count for fledglings is at one. I kept a look out for the second eaglet, but never spotted it.
 
Barb & Treble's two offspring are now gone, but stayed far longer than the others. The last offspring to leave Jefferson’s Reach left last Wednesday, August 12. She was last observed then, and has not been seen since. It was nice to see Barb & Treble’s offspring stay a lot longer than the others, as it seems over the last few years, the young eagles leave much earlier than what I had previously thought. Some fledglings would stay deep into August and have seen them stay into September. Recently, they all seem to be gone before August 1. One observation that is pretty interesting, is that the new pair of eagles seems to fledge their offspring earlier than the older, original five pair of eagles in Jefferson’s Reach. This is something of interest for me in the future and only time will tell if this observation is true.
 
The last to fledge were Bandit & Trey’s two eaglets who were both spotted (and photographed) on June 21. Seen here to the left, this photo was taken by Ted Jurkuta on June 21. Her offspring could have fledged up to five days before, which amazingly is over a month after Henry & Duchess fledged their first offspring on May 10. Both of Bandit’s fledglings have left the terriroty and have not been observed for a few weeks now. She currently stands at three successful breeding seasons out of eleven, by far the worst percentage of the original five pair within Jefferson’s Reach.
 
In my opinion, the coveted “Eagle Parents of the Year” has to go to Henry & Duchess. The way they came onto the scene in early 2019 and built a nest, and carved out a small territory was amazing. Then, to successfully incubate, hatch, feed, fledge and teach the way they did … Wow! Amazing for a first try. They fledged their offspring earlier than any I’ve seen in my eleven years of eagle watching and taught their offspring all the ways of survival, and fast. They did so well, that one might think they are an older pair, and have had many breeding seasons under their belts. Perhaps they were pushed out of a territory by a younger pair in late 2018 and were forced to go find a new territory. Perhaps they had a territory two miles downriver, or 50 miles away. Or perhaps, they are both six or seven years old, and this truly is their first breeding season. Either way, they did an amazing job, and were true testaments of how a resident pair of eagles should thrive during one annual life cycle. Congratulations to Henry & Duchess for being Discover the James’ 2020 Eagle Parents of the Year. 
 
Stay safe and enjoy the view from your windows, your yard, fresh air … embrace the outdoors.
 
Capt. Mike
 

Eagle Update, June 21, 2020

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Thu, 06/25/2020 - 17:31

Note:  The two photos in the story are by Ted Jurkuta who came out on the Discovery Barge II a few days after this story happened. The two offspring are perched on the same sycamore in the story below. The female is on the left and male on the right. Size here tells the story as females are larger than male eagles.  The image of the new fledgling flying, is the female. Look for more info on these eagles in the next post!!

The river’s ecosystem is amazing and offers surprises at every turn. On rare occasions, a powerful gift comes along, and this is a story of one of those gifts. This past Sunday, heading out on Father’s Day was extra special as thoughts of fishing trips with my Dad filled my head. I settled into the Discovery Barge II, backed her out of the slip and began a morning of discovery with a good friend Frank and his family. We were golden, like the morning light. For one father, his persistence and dedication delivered us that special gift … an unexpected event that gave me goosebumps on and off for twenty-five minutes as I slowly comprehended what surely was a gift from the river gods.

The wildlife was active and life filled the air, water and shorelines. The fog was heavy, but not too much so as we made our way slowly downriver. Eventually we were greeted by eagles and something I didn’t think possible.

Based on logical observations and activity of the resident bald eagles breeding season over the last two months, I would have bet money all of the eaglets had fledged as of June 6. Being in my eleventh year watching the eagles of Jefferson’s Reach, I “again” realized that every season is a learning season. Five years ago, I would have said, “The end of May and the first two weeks of June are when the eaglets fledge, (fly from the nest for the first time).” Over the past couple of years, things have changed a bit and I have to amend that statement to say, “The eaglets of Jefferson’s Reach fledge between May 10 and into the first two weeks in June.” This year, new resident eagles Henry & Duchess fledged two eagles, the first, Lorna on May 10 and Mondo (her sibling) fledged a few days later. Lorna fledged eleven days earlier than any I had previously seen over the eleven years. Last year, Barb & Treble, another new resident pair fledged an eaglet on or just before May 20. At the time, this was the earliest fledgling by one day … Virginia & James had a fledgling on May 21 about four years ago. At that time, it was the earliest by a week. 

For the first seven years of eagle watching in Jefferson’s Reach there were five pair in six miles and today, three and a half years later, there are eight pair. Henry & Duchess are resident pair #8 (most recent: arrived in January 2019). Barb & Treble are resident pair #7, (arrived in October 2016). The sixth pair of resident eagles, Dark Beak & Merry, are a story in themselves.  Dark Beak has been here the entire time, somehow maintaining his territory without a mate until Merry, who came in last Fall, became his mate. They built a nest this year, and seemed to be making headway towards a successful breeding season, but their nest fell. Maybe next year.

Getting back to the unexpected event … we cruised out of the slip and into the unknown. Looking at great blue heron in the fog, and listening to cardinals, prothonotary warblers and yellow billed cuckoos kept us busy when suddenly Bandit appeared out of nowhere. She flew out of the fog and perched nearby. About five minutes into talking about her storied history, a juvenile eagle flew out from the tree line nearby, about 150 yards away. This young bird flew over the river and tree line on the other side directly towards Bandit’s nest … “Bandit is going to call out and send that intruder a warning call!” I said but she did not call out …  and for a brief moment I thought, “Perhaps that’s her fledgling?” and the next thought was, “No way, can’t be.” Bandit had not been making trips to her nest, a vital activity to keep eaglets fed, healthy and alive. Observing her actions over the past two months became increasing difficult to determine whether or not she had success with breeding. It was clear early on that she had activity at the nest, but this activity slowed to a crawl and she literally did not go to the nest but twice over the past four trips to see her. Those couple of trips to the nest were just enough to keep my hopes alive that she had eaglets still. During the last observation, on June 6, she did not go to the nest and I had resolved that her breeding season was a failure. Interestingly, I had also noted the absence of her mate, Trey, over the past month … another oddity.

About ten minutes into our encounter with Bandit, her mate, Trey flew in from the deep fog just south of us. He flew to his favorite sycamore tree and perched. As I was explaining to Frank and his family about Trey and his recent absence, something happened. From a distance, we heard the unmistakable screeching of fledgling eagles.  “NO WAY” I thought and spun my head back towards Trey and saw two eaglets fly towards him and landed near him (Dad) on this Father’s Day. The larger fledgling (probably female) landed just below Trey and her sibling, a smaller eagle (probably male) landed just to the side of Trey. The screeched and called as they perched magnificently in that sycamore. 

I was processing what was happening and just couldn’t believe what was happening … Bandit & Trey had a successful breeding season, and they have two chicks!! What a roller coaster ride thinking the ‘success’ then ‘failure’. Goosebumps were at 100%!! Just goes to show … as much as I think I’m reading what’s happening out there, time is what really tells the story and all you can do is make a best guess along the way and continue to learn from every observation. It was a top five moment for me on the river to see those two eagles fledge. Quite honestly, Bandit was right on par for the timing of fledging eaglets … the middle of June.  Wow.

What also makes sense is that Trey was missing. He was surely at or near the nest most of the time, which is out of sight from the river. His presence at the nest perhaps gave Bandit more freedoms from the nest, but both parents share that workload. The first successful breeding season she had was with Trey in her sixth breeding season. Trey did all of the work … incubating, feeding, etc. There was not one observation or photo of Bandit with her first offspring. She just didn’t have anything to do with it. Two years later (three years ago) during her second successful breeding season, she was at or on the nest quite often, feeding and incubating. She progressed as a parent between her first and second successful breeding seasons. Naturally, I thought she would have progressed more during this third successful breeding season, but that did not seem to be the case, hence my assumption that she had a failed breeding season. Boy was I wrong, and am so glad!  

 

 

 

Eagle Observations from June 6, 2020

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Thu, 06/11/2020 - 11:10

“Another glorious morning on the James River” was my first thought once out of the slip. I shifted into forward, throttled the outboard engine and headed into the magic of Jefferson’s Reach. The wind blew from the North and the glow from the morning sun lit the surrounding perfectly. I was right … glorious.

It was just Lynda and I on the Discovery Barge II, ready for, well …. discovery!  The river was quiet initially, with no prothonotary warblers calling out or resident kingfishers who frequently flitter, chatter and hunt in the first bend of the trip. And no sighting of Bandit or Trey.

Next it was onto Henry & Duchess’ territory and our hopes of seeing their two fledglings. We made the sharp turn and instantly saw Mondo perched along the south-side of the river. He flew off, out of sight, into the wetlands that surrounded their nest tree. We scanned both shorelines and just upriver from where Mondo had just left … there she was, Lorna, the other fledgling eagle from this territory. She, unlike her brother, stayed and as we got closer, could see the morning sun lighting her brown feathered head, while a large branch put the rest of her body in the shade. It’s very obvious who is who with these two. Lorna, the female, is much larger than her sibling, Mondo. Lorna looked around, moving her head up, down and side to side, eventually flying across the river, calling out the entire time. “Cheeee, cheeeeee, cheeee,” from shore to shore, landing on a very old and sycamore tree, at the end of Henry & Dutchess’ territory. A few hundred feet away is a massive pine tree, half fallen, hanging over the shoreline at a forty-five degree angle. This pine tree is the beginning of Bandit’s territory and the space between the pine and sycamore is the buffer zone between the two territories. In order to survive, ultimately this no-fly-zone has to be honored or fights between eagles will certainly occur.

Shortly after Lorna landed in the Sycamore, Duchess flew in and landed just a few feet to left of her. Moments later Mondo appeared from the swamp, crossed the river and flew along the shoreline just above the trees. Lorna left her perch, joined him in flight and the two soared together, free and wild. Both called out and and played in mid air as one would fly down at the other causing it to turn upside down and flare their talons. “So young, and already showing signs of advancement” I thought.  Young eagles have to learn quick. In another two months or less they’ll be gone for good, on their own wandering the Chesapeake Bay watershed and beyond for the next four to five years becoming mature bald eagles. If they survive that long, once fully mature, they will be able to find a mate and secure their own territory.

Varina & Enon made their first showing in weeks and it was great to see them, although I wondered where they had been. Mid-May to mid-June is the time the young eagles fledge. Often times, the parents go missing during this time, at least from within sight of the river. It could be they are just over the tree line feeding on a dead deer, or just out of sight for whatever reason. But, I wonder if they are more likely to leave the territory at this point in their annual life cycle as this is the time, the eaglets fledge and perhaps as they gain confidence in their ability to fly, they leave the territory by mistake and the parents must follow to protect and make sure the young eagles can make it back safely. Bald eagles seem to do certain things they only do during a particular time of the year. For example, right now, bald eagles are less likely to take an easy meal. An example would be a fresh, dead fish on the surface of the river. Instead of grabbing it, they watch it and wait for an osprey to snatch it off the surface and then the eagle will chase the osprey to steal the fish. When an eagle has young to teach, it makes sense to wait and chase the osprey because they are showing/teaching the young eagles how to get food by stealing from an osprey. Whether an eagle pair has young or not, right now, they will wait and chase osprey as oppose to grabbing a much easier meal. It must be in their DNA to teach this and they do wo whether they have young or not. Chasing an osprey is such an energy drain and it can last minutes. That’s a lot of wing beats … hard, fast, tiring wing beats.

We did’t see Virginia & James either, and like Varina & Enon, they have been absent most of the spring. They are rarely in their normal perching spots and seem to be off this year. It was about a year ago I suspected the male eagle, James, was a new mate to Virginia. In the past, when a new eagle replaced an existing one, it took some time to figure out, but became so obvious a new eagle was present, there was no question about it. With the case of Virginia & James, even a year later, I can’t say with full confidence that a new male eagle has taken over. Something is amiss … maybe it’s just me.

Downriver a bit further we entered into Dark Beak & Merry’s territory. We saw one of them flying around, back and fourth from one end of the territory to the other. This bird was on patrol and not stopping or landing. One thing is for sure … as the eagle flew past a small patch of trees on the west side of the river, a kingbird flew out, gave chase, flying down at the eagle, landed on its back and rode it for 100 yards. “Ah-ha, the kingbirds are back and nesting. Yes!” I said. So for the next several weeks, when any eagle files near these trees, these kingbirds will give a rodeo style show that’s incredible to see. On another note, I find myself writing the male's name either Darkbeak or Dark Beak ... I'm not sure which I like better, but starting to think Dark Beak is the way I'll write his name as long as he is around.

Not far away we entered into Rebecca & John’s territory. This pair, has a failed breeding season. I remained hopeful, but there just does’t seem to be any activity at the nest. Today we saw John flying out, chasing an immature intruder. He tried to call out at one point, and once he did, I knew it was him. John lost his voice, or ability to make the ‘eagle call’ last year. All he can do is make small cackles. BUT, he did manage to eek a loud squeak at one point, which is more than he’s been able to do for over a year now. I wonder if his voice box is healing and his ability to make the unmistakable eagle call is coming back?  I hope so and quite honestly, knowing how many eagles are out there now, wanting territories, and understanding how much of a weakness not having the ability to audibly communicate is, I thought he would be replaced, injured or killed by now.

Last week, Barb & Treble’s nest was completely empty, meaning their two eaglets had fledged. As soon as we crossed the buffer zone and into their territory we spotted a fledgling on the east side of the river … and then there were two. Both were flying together, and calling out much like Lorna & Mondo. it was awesome as Barb & Treble were watching them fly around. All four eventually left the river and landed in trees too far away to be seen, but not too far to be heard. We could hear both screeching for their parents to bring them food.

Baba & Pops were not to be found today, so the hopes of finding their second eaglet will have to wait for another week. Again, it was reported they had two eaglets in the nest. One has fledged so far with the other more than likely in flight or perched watching the sun go down over Jefferson’s Reach. On the way back, we did find Bandit and she was busy at the downriver end of her territory … protecting it, probably from Henry & Duchess, or that pesky eagle from the south-side of Dutch Gap who makes forays into Bandit’s territory far too often (and has been doing so for most of 2020). Perhaps that is why Bandit more than likely has another failed breeding season. Each week offer little or no hope she has success at the nest and today showed no signs of success.

So the total count for fledgling eagles this year in Jefferson’s Reach is five. Out of the eight pair, four have failed, three have fledglings, and then there is Bandit & Trey, whose hope is getting thinner. Baba & Pops still may have one other fledgling, but for now, there are five. As for Eagle Parents of the Year Award, Henry & Duchess have a slight lead over the other two successful pair.

Parting notes include seeing the first great egret of the year in Jefferson’s Reach. As they start to arrive in bigger numbers, white dots will scatter the shorelines in the early morning light. The osprey chicks are getting bigger. In just a week they went from too small to see over the nest rail, to half their body is over the nest rail. Journey & Traveler, in their second season on the river have three young osprey in their nest. Last year, when they first arrived, they took too long to decide on where to build their nest and ultimately failed in their breeding season. This is their first successful brood so far and already have a three piece. Across the river on another channel marker is Walter & Annie, one of the older pair of osprey on the river. They again have two young osprey on the nest and seem to be a few days younger than Journey & Traveler’s chicks. Both pair were busy at the nest tearing apart a fish and feeding their offspring small piece by small piece. Until next week …

Capt. Mike

 

Eagle Update May 31, 2020

Submitted by Capt. Mike on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 20:42
It’s funny how fast time goes by. It feels like yesterday when I last wrote about the eagles, but a week out of town and a few days on either side of that trip has somehow has added up to almost three weeks. A lot has changed since then, but one thing is for certain, it was darn nice to be back on the river. For the last day in May, the air was brisk … it was still sweatshirt weather.  My favorite quite honestly, and with the winds blowing moderately out of the north-northeast, it was downright chilly. Scores of small fish were dimpling the surface of the old river channel, and I guessed them to be river herring, more than likely working their way back out to the Chesapeake Bay, then the Atlantic Ocean to spend another year at sea until their annual return back to our river to spawn, next spring. 
 
It was early, close to 7am and I was running my first trip with a paying passenger. My first since March 13. Discover the James is now allowed to carry passengers on Eagle Tours once again, but the passenger total has been reduced to three people. So my wife, Lynda and I hosted Barbara Houston and Judy Jones, two veteran eagle photographers one might call … frequent flyers. We each wore face masks, another of the new regs for the Discovery Barge II (my boat) while on board. I wore one that covers my nose, mouth and neck and quickly realized, you cannot drink your coffee through the mask. Yeah, I did that.
 
As the morning progressed we realized cuckoos were all over the river.  Not the kind you might be thinking of. We heard one call out, then another responded in a number of places along Jefferson’s Reach. Yellow Billed Cuckoos! What a magnificent bird to see (and hear). We were on the east side of Jones Neck, lining up along the shore to look for prothonotary warblers when Judy and Lynda said, almost simultaneously, “A Cuckoo!!” Sure enough, right in front of us were two yellow billed cuckoos … perhaps a mated pair. They were filtering around in the tree directly in front of us, about ten feet away. With one bird out in the open, only feet away and locking into it with binoculars made the moment pretty special as that cuckoo looked so fluffy and soft and very alert. After a couple of minutes, they were both gone …. not far, but too far for us to see through the foliage. It was interesting to hear their unmistakable calls throughout the morning in multiple spots, so as I stated earlier, the cuckoos were out on the river Saturday morning.
 
Most mornings on the river, the wildlife is active from the moment you start pick up your binoculars, while other mornings may take a bit of time and looking around to kick in. For this last day in May, it didn’t take long to become spectacular. We worked our way through Bandit & Trey’s territory rather quickly as they were busy defending their territory against a single adult bald eagle, who took their attentions away from the nest. With the little time we were able to observe them, there was no indication that there was success at the nest still, but again, they were busy chasing off the interloper. The good news was we’d be coming back through their territory again, so perhaps we could gather the intel needed to show signs of a successful breeding season. Over the past couple check ins on them, there was very little to pin hope on, but there were forays back to the nest and that’s good and meant there was still hope.
 
Rounding the next bend we entered into Henry & Duchess’s territory. These two fabulous eagles, in their first breeding season, are in the midst of a record setting season for this area. Two weeks ago on my last trip to the river, they had the first fledged eagle, who was named Lorna (to read more about Lorna, click here). At first look, no eagles were in sight so we slowly maneuvered about their territory, checking each little nook and cranny they might be hiding in. With the spring foliage fully in bloom, it’s harder to locate them, but if they are there, generally you can find them. Eventually, Henry flew from the swamp, over the tree line, across the river and landed in one of his favorite perches, a nook I had checked only moments before. This particular perch is like a thrown gives him full view of his territory, high on a bluff, and equally important, gives him full view of his nest. Shortly after he landed, one of his offspring followed and perched. It was Lorna, the female offspring who fledged on or about May 10. Watching her and sharing her story, we heard the squeaky call of a newly fledged eagle flying behind us, on the other side of the river, working his way from the upriver side of his parent’s territory and flying directly towards us … Mondo was coming too … he too had left the nest … calling out for attention, food, or what ever it is that newly fledged eagles are in need of from their parents. “Probably food” we figured. It was a goose bumped, inspiring moment to see both fledged eaglets, Lorna & Mondo in flight. To read more about why these birds were named Lorna & Mondo, click here.
 
When you see an eagle and an osprey together, usually fighting in one way or another, the eagle’s body is much larger, and the comparison gives you a real sense of how big an eagle really is. Osprey are large raptors themselves, but dwarfed by the bulk of an eagle. Songbirds are tiny birds, probably the size of an eagles head, and often times jump into the act and will harass an eagle. Last year there was one particular kingbird that would chase Dark Beak when he flew to close to a set of trees in his territory.  The kingbird would give chase, peck at Dark Beak’s head and ultimately (and many times too), land and ride on the back of the eagle! It was like watching a rodeo as the eagle would buck back and fourth trying to bounce that little songbird off his back. Often times the ride would last hundreds of yards!!
 
On Sunday, a red winged blackbird gave Mondo chase, staying right on his back side. Judy Jones managed a wonderful shot of the the red winged blackbird giving Mondo chase, as he flew across the river to catch up with Dad and his sibling. Some moments missed can be relived through photos… an image can transport one right back to an exact moment. In this photo you can see why they are called the redwing blackbird. 
 
We soon found our way into Annie & Walter’s territory and nest. This pair of osprey were busy with mom on the nest feeding their young. There were two very young osprey osprey heads, bobbing and swaying taking small pieces of fish from Annie’s beak as she ripped tiny portions from the fish tightly wrapped in her talons. No sounds, just the movement to the two week-old heads. We noticed two other osprey nests with chicks being fed, so after the five to six-week gestation period, the osprey eggs have started to hatch. And for these hatchings, they will remain in the nest, being fed nearly exclusively fish for a little over seven weeks, until they will fledge and begin the next chapter in their lives.
 
Baba & Pops, perhaps the oldest mated pair of eagles on the river have had a successful breeding season once again. While in their territory, we watched Pops, perched in a sycamore tree for quite some time. Baba came in and shortly there after, their fledgling followed. Lynda Richardson captured a wonderful image (to the right) of Pops with the unnamed fledgling in the background. So, for now, they have one fledgling, but rumor has it, there were two in the nest. Perhaps it will or has already fledged, and as always, time has a good way of telling the story. Perhaps even as soon as next week! 
 
Barb & Treble, another young pair who settled in Jefferson’s Reach a few years ago has their second successful breeding season in a row. Two weeks ago, they had two eaglets on the nest. Neither had fledged, but were close … both high on the nest rail, flapping and hopping, getting some ‘air time’ in what seemed to moments before fledging. This past Sunday morning, neither mom, dad or either fledgling was to be seen. No activity at the nest and nothing in the tree lines on either shore. The two have fledged and perhaps they were very close by, in the field at the top of the bluff where their nest sits high in a pine tree. Young eagles, once they have left the nest can certainly land and take off, which makes it very easy to land in an open field, next to carrion, feed and take off again. Much easier than perching in a tree, holding a fish that mom or dad gave them and trying to figure out how to perch AND hold the fish in it’s talons AND eat …. all at the same time. A vital talent they will soon learn, as that is high on the priority list of what the parents teach their young early after fledging. No time is wasted as each act a parent does teaches their offspring some necessary skill or helps ignite some of their instincts needed for survival. Eagles are great teachers and care deeply for their offspring and mates as seen in the way they will protect them at all costs.
 
After a very successful trip through Jefferson's Reach, checking on the various species of songbirds, raptors and shorebirds, we made our way back towards the dock, but not before double checking on Bandit & Trey. Both eagles were in their territory, seemingly relaxes and long done with that pesky intruder from a few hours before. Bandit came in close and gave us a great show but neither showed signs of activity at the nest. Just before we headed back to the dock, she grabbed a fish, flew upriver, banked sharply to the west and made a direct line of flight over the trees and to the nest. Just enough info to keep our hopes alive that she will indeed have a fledgling soon. "Until next week Bandit", I silently said to her as I fired up the engine for the last time that morning.
 
Capt. Mike