What excites me most during these bald eagle excursions is the unexpected. It might be seeing something for the first time such as an incredible congregation of waterfowl or observing a majestic bald eagle perched up in a tree that suddenly unfolded its eight foot wing span in the direction of an unsuspected fish. These were only a few memories that Ron and I had experienced last week during our preliminary bald eagle scouting trip.
In fact, before we even set sights on our first bald eagle, a few surprises were found along the way. While driving north on Route 390 toward Promised Land State Park we passed a frozen pond that was partly open on one side. “I noticed two dark furry objects on the ice and immediately blurted, “Get your camera ready, there are two river otters!” We pulled to the side of the road and got our cameras ready, then turned the car around a slowly drove toward the pond. My binoculars confirmed two large river otters eating breakfast on the ice. We positioned our cameras out the car window and tried to capture a few photos. Unfortunately, what is seen with the human eye is not what is captured by camera and telescopic lens. Unnoticed to our eyes were dozens of slender blueberry branches that became obstructive focal points for our cameras. Even manually focusing on the river otters could not capture a perfect image, but we were quite grateful to secure digital documentations of the rivers otters munching away of yellow perch.
Our next destination was to Lake Wallenpaupack and by the time caught a glimpse of the large lake, Ron spotted two bald eagles. We drove to a public viewing area to get better looks at the eagles only to be surprised by what was resting on the water. What had us mesmerized was a humongous raft of common merganser ducks resting on the lake. In fact, the flock was the largest I have ever witnessed, and in which we made a conservative estimate to be over 1,500 individuals. It was impossible to take a photo of the entire flock as it was spread out widely across the lake. Common mergansers are fish-eating ducks which successfully dive down in the water to catch a meal. There fish catching proficiency was confirmed by a flock of ring-billed gulls and three bald eagles circling over the mergansers with the hopes one would cough up a meal.
Ron and I continued our trip toward the Delaware River and along the way spotted several more bald eagles perched in trees, as well as two occupied bald eagle nests. Bald eagles are one of our largest raptors nearly 40-inches tall and construct gigantic nests of branches. Bald eagles typically mate for life and use the same nest in which they continually add branches to the nest each season. One of the bald eagles sitting on the nest looked small as the nest appeared large enough for a human to sit inside!
Along the way were dozens of mallards, black ducks, Canada geese, common mergansers and beautiful hooded mergansers; lest we forget, the fidgety belted kingfisher that chattered emphatically as it flew upstream. Many of the bald eagles we spotted that day were quite content perched in trees, and offered great photo opportunities. In fact, one stoic adult with a gleaming white head and tail stared its hypnotic yellow eyes into the current below waiting for a fish to surface, while a nearby immature bald eagle mottled in chocolate brown looked comically drenched, perhaps missing the luckiest fish in the river.
We could not believe how quickly a few hours had gone by, which concluded a very successful scouting trip. There always seems to be a few hidden treasures during these bald eagle adventures, and this time Ron and I found the jackpot. We had a bald eagle bonanza as we observed 22 bald eagles, thousands of waterfowl, numerous songbirds and two well-fed river otters. We had an amazing time and like I said, “Great adventures are best spent with great friends.”
For information regarding guided Bald Eagle auto tours (availability, times and pricing) please contact Skytop Lodge at 570-595-8998.