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."

Meaghan added:

"... 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!


grammie g said...

What a amazing experience ...probably not for the Eagles though!!! I didn't know that about there courting ritual..very interesting post. Thanks !!

KHC said...

Bill, this is so great. I linked to it from my own little blog, www.cabin-world.blogspot.com. I suggest you send the story to the Bangor Daily News, or maybe Down East. Those photos are amazing!

Bill Sheehan said...

thanks Grammie and Kay for the kind comments..I wish I had been there myself. There's lots of eagles in this area. I guess I just have to keep an eye out for them!

Sarah said...

I have seen a Bald Eagle swimming after it launched an unsuccessful attack on a fish ... the eagle landed in the water and swam for several strokes before struggling out of the water and flying to a nearby tree. This was on Mount Desert Island.

BirdingMaine said...

What an incredible story! I've seen the cartwheel display, but never nothing like this.

There was a news story not too long ago out of Alaska about a pair of Eagles who did not disengage and plowed into the snow. One was killed and the other was recovering at a rehabilitation clinic. http://www.adn.com/2010/04/09/1219241/double-eagle-dive-proves-fatal.html

Robin Robinson said...

Sure wish I had taken those photos! Terrific! I have seen an eagle swimming here in Phippsburg in Totman Cove which is ocean. An eagle was dive bombing a Goldeneye repeatedly. The little duck was too fast for it and kept ducking under water. Eventually, the eagle tired and then miscalculated winding up in the drink. It had to swim several hundred feet, then lumbered up onto the rocks. It took at least 1/2hr for it to dry enough to fly. It looked very humiliated by the whole thing.

Hilke Breder said...

Wow! What an amazing story! Glad it had a happy ending.