Bald Eagle on Siesta Key!

Dateline: South Siesta Key FL; 13 October 2019; 0900 – 0930 EDT

In previous posts, I have documented the exploits of an osprey pair that regularly visits mi tierra on South Siesta Key.  These graceful raptors are very accessible to humans, as they often build their nests close to shore on manmade structures, such as channel markers and special nest platforms.  They are fun to watch, and I have spent many an hour studying and photographing these unique members of the hawk family.

That said, there is something about the bald eagle in terms of size and majesty.  When these great birds are around, it is clear that they are the apex of the pyramid.  Although there are a number of nests in the greater Sarasota area, their presence on Siesta Key appears to be transitory.  Last year, we spotted a mated pair atop nearby Somerset Cay, but they were quickly gone.

This morning, my wife Margi and I took our customary walk along Midnight Pass near Turtle Beach.  On the way back, Margi looked up and spotted a magnificent bald eagle atop the roof of Tortuga, a nearby condo building.  I hurried back home to grab my trusty Nikon D5600 with its 300-mm telephoto lens.†  Fortunately, this beautiful specimen was still basking in the morning sun when I returned.  Below are a few representative shots.

Here he is atop a perch on Tortuga, surveying his kingdom below.  It was a bit breezy this morning, so you can see his windswept feathers.

01 Windblown profile shot(Nikon D5600; FL = 300 mm; 1/500 sec; f/8.0; ISO 125; EC = 0)

The snowy-white head feathers indicate that this fellow is at least 5 years old.  During the first five years, the changes in appearance are gradual: (1.) the beak turns from black to yellow; (2.) the eyes turn from brown to pale yellow; (3.) the body feathers turn from mottled to dark brown; and (4.) the head and tail feathers turn from mottled to solid white.  A first-year juvenile, for example, has rather little white coloration.

I particularly like the shot below.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was an osprey soaring nearby who tried (unsuccessfully) to knock Mr. Eagle off his perch.  Here he is, shrieking at the oncoming osprey, who is just outside the field of view of the camera.  (Now that would have been a terrific shot!)

02 Shooing Osprey
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300 mm; 1/500 sec; f/8.0; ISO 125; EC = 0)

I’m not sure how to describe the picture below.  Our friend seems to be pretty angry about something.  Here, he displays a snarly face and a clawful of sharp talons.  Perhaps the osprey was back in the neighborhood?  Or maybe he was simply pondering a pedicure?

03 Showing Talons_2
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300 mm; 1/500 sec; f/8.0; ISO 125; EC = 0)

And finally, we have the inevitable stink-eye shot.  I seem to be very good at eliciting this response from my avian subjects.  This fellow spent some time staring in my direction, wondering what I was all about.  Fortunately for me, he kept his distance during the photoshoot.

04 Stinkeye shot
(Nikon D5600; FL = 300 mm; 1/1000 sec; f/8.0; ISO 200; EC = 0)

I intend to keep an eye out for our new friend over the next few days.  As I mentioned above, these birds seem to just pass through Siesta Key.  (I’m not aware of any permanent nests on the island.)  Watch this space!

Kudos to my dear Margi for spotting this wonderful bird!  I was daydreaming at the time, and would have missed him entirely 😢.  ♦♦♦


† Truth be told, this is my first post with the D5600.  My tried-and-true D40 is currently in mothballs.

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