Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Beautiful Eagles Circling Over Colvill Park

This past weekend I participated in a golden eagle survey in southeastern Minnesota. Unfortunately my group did not find any golden eagles in our area but I did get some opportunities to take some pictures. It was pretty cold that morning, the bank thermometers read -13 degrees as I was driving to the National Eagle Center where we were meeting. That does not take into the account the wind chill factor which was probably around 30 below. I had a little extra time so I made a little side trip to Colvill Park in Red Wing, MN on my way to Wabasha.

Colvill Park is a little city park on the southern outskirts of Red Wing. It has a lot of the things that parks in most cities do, like a swimming pool, playground, picnic area, and ball fields. It also is a good place to do a little bird watching, since it is on the Mississippi River. It is a really good place to do bird watching during the winter months, particularly if you want to see bald eagles. Colvill Park is directly down stream from an Excel Energy plant. The steam plant keeps the surrounding water warm so that it does not freeze, which means that it is a gathering place for bald eagles during the winter. Since it was so cold that morning there were many eagles gathered around, about 40 total.
I took a few pics but since I had to be down in Wabasha soon I could not stay. After I finished the golden eagle survey. I left at lunch time since we had already covered our area pretty well and we had not spotted any, I stopped back at Colvill Park. By this time the eagles had left their perches and I was able to get some great flight shots as the circled overhead on the thermals.
There were quite a few adults but what really caught my eye were these very beautiful mottled immature birds.Immature eagles appear much different then adults do. They usually have brown feathers, brown eyes, and black beaks. At the age of around 4 or 5 they begin to change to the adult coloration that most people easily recognize. When they are in the middle of this process, as these birds are, they can have unique and striking coloration.You can see that the heads are turning white but still have a mix of black feathers. The same with the tail. The beak is partially yellow but still has some black in it. Since the head on the eagle in this last picture has a lot more white feathers then the others it is probably a year older.

Eagles where not the only bird in Colvill Park that afternoon. There was a small group of mallards in the water as well as a female common merganser. In the trees on the side of the river there were a couple of downy woodpeckers playing with a red-bellied wood pecker.

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