Sunday, October 17, 2010

Return of the Bald Eagles

The holiday season has once again almost returned, bringing with it our annual season of joy, sharing, and hopeful happiness (What? Is it really November already!?). But while we all are busy with our holiday preparations, another visitor once again silently prepares to return to our neighborhood. This wintering natural neighbor is none other than our spectacular Bald Eagle as they typically make their annual winter visit from November through early March (some yearlong residents do live and nest locally as well, but many are only winter visitors).

Local winter populations of eagles do not compare to those present at river areas to the north, such as the Skagit, Sauk, and Stillaguamish Rivers. However, we do have many local hotspots, which often provide excellent viewing opportunities. In the heart of Fall City you can often spot these huge birds in the towering cottonwood trees near the confluence of the Raging and Snoqualmie Rivers. I’ve seen as many as four at once just across the river from town! They fish the Raging River often and I’m always keeping an eye open along the Preston-Fall City Road at each bend in the river. If you fail to see any in these locations, roam up to Borst Lake along Mill Pond Road out of Snoqualmie, or take the West Snoqualmie Valley Road to Carnation. Areas north of Carnation near Sikes Lake and along the river near Carnation Farm Road all offer excellent opportunities to see these magnificent birds!

The lives of Bald Eagles are fascinating, and one of the most amazing things about them to me is their nesting practice. Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world that are made by a single pair of birds. Some nests weigh over a thousand pounds and the largest nests have been known to be up to 12 feet deep! They lay on average only two eggs in the nest and only 10% of all newborns will survive until adulthood. Adulthood is reached at age five when they finally develop the spectacular white heads we all recognize so quickly. What is so interesting to me is that their nests, once established, are used perennially by mating pairs of birds, and have been known to be used for up to 35 years!

Each eagle sighting I have becomes a memory that lingers with me for a long time. Whether it is a pair of them circling over the Snoqualmie River or a single bird perched in a large cottonwood tree, it keeps a smile in my mind for days. So keep your eyes open wherever you go around the valley this winter. You never know when you might spot our flying national symbol!