Consistently Amazed at What the James Offers. Blog Entry #2, 12/24/10

December 23, 2010. 

9am - 11:30am.  Water temp: 35 degrees.  Air Temp: Mid 30's.  Wind: 5-15 from the NW

Today was another amazing day on the James River. Based on the bald eagle activity over the last couple of weeks, I knew two things were happening.  First, there have been a high number of migratory bald eagles in the region.  And second, the resident bald eagles have been acting differently in their relations with other eagles.

Normally, the resident eagles are very territorial, but lately they have been tolerant of their migratory neighbors from the North.  On the main channel, between the 295 Bridge (Varina-Enon) and the Jones Neck cut through, two pair of resident bald eagles live in their modest territories ... Varina & Enon and Virginia & James.  Lately there have been about 30 eagles hanging out in their territories.  It's hard to tell the difference between the residents and the migratory eagles.  I believe we saw Varina & Enon today, but not certain.  Two mature eagles gave us a pretty close fly by, but then drifted back into the mix of birds.  We did see residents Bandit & Smokey.  It was early and they were alone.  On the way back to the Richmond Yacht Basin there were about ten bald eagles in their territory.

What amazed me today was the sheer number of bald eagles.  Conservatively, we agreed there were 50 bald eagles on three miles of river.  At any one time, we could see ten or more bald eagles.  They were perched in trees and gliding in the air.  A couple of times, we looked downriver and saw six or more eagles sitting in a tree.  There was also a plethora of eagles in the sky, riding the cold NW wind.  I've always felt bald eagles enjoy a NW wind best.  A north wind is usually cooler and an eagle would have to 'head' into the wind, keeping the sun, for the most part, at their backs and out of their eyes.

Mostly we saw immature bald eagles today.  They have modeled brown and white feathers throughout their body.  I am always in awe at the beauty of their markings.  It's no wonder so many Inuits were inspired by them.  There were also plenty of mature bald eagles around today too.  Mature eagles have a white head and tail, and dark brown body.  The most captivating sight of the day was watching three pair of eagles flying around twisting and darting while staying in a close formation.  They'd turn towards each other, close in talon to talon and reach out towards one another.  They never did lock talons, but would act as if they were.  It was if they were truly dancing, like the NW wind was some type of symphony playing only for them.  My next trip out is this Tuesday and again later in the week. Until next time ... stay warm and whenever possible ... enjoy the James River.      -- Capt. Mike

The photo's story?  This is an immature migratory bald eagle.   The image was taken by local pro Bob Schammerhorn who took a number of shots of this particular bird and can be viewed on his website by Bob Schammerhorn