Hungry Raptors

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For the second time a northern harrier flew close over my head after crossing the Eagle River. The first time, when the river was full of spawned out silver salmon, the sleekly built owl flew toward me, allowing plenty of opportunity to watch its approach. Today, I caught it out of the corner of my eye and just managed to take one photograph as it climbed to hunting height. Both times I was amazed at the far-forward position of the bird’s wing.

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Minutes after the harrier drifted behind a big cottonwood tree, a tight formation of Canada geese flew over my little dog and I. In an explosion of noise the geese broke formation. Seconds later a bald eagle climbed back up to its hunting height.

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I’ve seen peregrine falcons knock pigeons out of the sky over Downtown Juneau but never even heard of an eagle hunting like that. In spite of their size, the raptors seem most comfortable using their fierce beak and talons to tear meat from carcasses. They aren’t brave. I once saw a tiny arctic tern chase an eagle away from the tern’s nesting colony by pulling at its tail feathers. But, it is famine time for the big birds, when they have to get creative to eat. As I write this, an eagle flies circles over Chicken Ridge and I wonder if tonight, some neighbor will be missing their cat.

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