“Is that a Raven?” Jeane asked as we were heading towards the river at the Shining River Open Space trailhead. I had been delayed because of an appointment and we were hoping to catch up with the Thursday Birders. It looked like an eagle wing-beat to me, but it went behind a barrier and seemed to disappear.
The morning was cold and cloudy, yet we plowed on excited at the possibilities of birds that we might see along this stretch of the Rio Grande.
Dark-eyed Juncos kept popping up along the trail. When we reached the river, all we could see were Mallards. As I looked down river, I could spy a single Common Merganser.
“Let’s head south and get beyond the island. It often is a good place to find waterfowl,” I suggested.
There was no opening to get to the edge of the river for over a mile. As we stood on the water’s edge, a Spotted Towhee was working the underbrush. In addition to Mallards, Canada Geese also rested in the shallow water beyond the island, but nothing else of interest.
Crows were calling excitedly.
There’s a large raptor in the tree just beyond us,” I alerted Jeane. “It’s a juvenile eagle and there’s a parent perched next to it.” The eagle looked like a first year juvenile. I inched closer hoping to get a vantage point that was not obstructed by branches so I could take a photo. I held my breath as I gingerly took a step at a time. It was the closest I had ever come to a perched Bald Eagle! It was so magnificent.
It must have sensed my presence, even though it was looking out over the water. It silently glided out over the river, the juvenile following a short distance behind.
As I turned around I spotted what looked like a large ball of mistletoe in the top of a cottonwood. “Look,” I said. “There is a porcupine right above where we were standing when we were looking out over the river.” It was nestled in a tangle of branches, making it difficult to get a good picture.
“I can just barely see its nose,” I commented as I checked it out from another angle. “I am going to go up on the levee trail and see if I can get a better view.”
We headed back towards the car along the drainage ditch. At one point we spotted a Great Blue Heron perched on the limb of a tree across the ditch.
As we walked along, we saw Northern Flicker, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Song and White-crowned Sparrows. A small flock of Sandhill Cranes called as they flew overhead.
We never did catch up with the Thursday Birders; however, it was a delightful morning to explore along the Rio Grande.