Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Swimming Eagles in Lakeville, Penobscot Co.
I recently received an apparently well-circulated email message describing a fantastic observation of local wildlife.... a pair of Bald Eagles was reportedly seen swimming in a lake south of here!
I followed up with the originator of the message, Linda Webster, and she put me in touch with Joshua and Meaghan Clapp who gave me permission to post their pictures and story of their strange find.
The Clapps were at their camp on Bottle Lake in Lakeville in Penobscot county back on May 2, 2010 when a kayaker approached them about helping some "tangled' eagles floating in the lake. They checked it out and got the great series of photos seen here.
Josh recounted the following:
"...a guy in a kayak came to the dock and asked if we knew how to get eagles untangled. Apparently 2 bald eagles got tangled together and were just floating down the lake after being exhausted from struggling to get free. We went out in the
boat and they seemed to be too tired to care that we were really close. Eventually we nudged them with the boat and they both flapped and got untangled. After that they swam to shore because they were unable to get airborne from the water. One of
them flew away right after it got up onto a rock. The other one tried flying, but didn't make it more than a few yards. It eventually climbed a tree leaning over the water and took off. I think they're both fine. Probably won't ever get that close
to 2 live eagles again."
"... After the man described what he could see, I said "I can't even picture what this looks like!" Apparently they had been at the end of the lake near Susan and Dick's camp and had been screeching and
struggling to break free from one another and then became exhausted and began floating down toward the boat launch. The kayaker had called the game warden, but he was over an hour away, so we wanted to help if possible. They must have been exhausted
because they didn't even try to move when we approached them with the boat. It was amazing to see them "swimming" to shore too. Their wings are so big! I yelled to my mom from the boat and she was able to come out of the camp in time to see the
eagle sitting on a rock about 20 feet away from her. I don't think we'll ever get that close to a bald eagle again in the wild or see such a bizarre situation. Thankfully they both seemed unharmed!"
I wondered about how this could happen and supposed that this was some sort of territorial dispute. The birds in Josh and Meaghan's photos were both adults.
After doing some research, I discovered some information on Bald Eagle breeding behavior and found there is a ritual called the Cartwheel Display in which the pair of courting eagles fly to high altitudes and then lock talons and tumble and cartwheel back to earth! According to the article I read, the eagles are supposed to disengage just before reaching the ground. Apparently these two didn't quite get it right and splashed down in the lake.
Regarding the swimming behavior that they saw, this is apparently not all that unusual and there quite a few reports of eagles catching large fish and "swimming" them into shallow water/ shore.
This was a great report of some rarely seen Bald Eagle behavior. Thanks to Linda, Josh and Meaghan for allowing their experience to be recounted here!