Last night, I was at a meeting when a non-birding friend of mine said, “Dick, I saw a beautiful Bald Eagle today down on the Dog River.” He went on to briefly describe the location and then the meeting started.
Bald Eagles are much more common in Vermont these days but still pretty unusual in Washington County — none have been recorded this year — and it’s a bird I need for my county big year so this morning, Penny and I were off in the truck to go birding. It was snowing with an inch or more on the ground as we drove around Montpelier looking for Pine Grosbeaks. (Another friend had emailed me about a flock of 16 the day before.) We saw nothing bird-wise and the snow was just steady enough to make the trip questionable.
We drove south about four miles to where Shawn had seen the eagle but I couldn’t spot anything. Route 12 has a lot of traffic and with the snow, there was no shoulders to pull off on — and so we trudged along southward to Northfield, thinking the there might be some Grosbeaks at Norwich University. There weren’t.
A bit discouraged about wasting gas on wild eagle chases, I back-tracked and just where it should be, perched the eagle, regal in a Birch tree with a couple of crows mobbing it. It was on the passenger side so I drove up ahead, found a driveway to turn in, (thank you 4WD), and drove back with the window down. I pulled partway off the highway, with blinkers on, and took photographs through the open window for about five minutes as cars wooshed by. It was a great bird to get. Here’s a photo from quite a distance.
Returning to Montpelier in the light snow, I decided to try a few more spots for birds I need. I drove up Junction Road which parallels the Winooski River and spotted a couple of Blue Jays and slowing, two American Tree Sparrows foraging. Just ahead was a parking area so I pulled in, got the dog on a leash which I tied to my belt, and she pulled me up the snowy dirt road to where we had seen the birds. It was a literal jackpot: first the Blue Jays, then a few Chickadees, then three American Robins. Robins are a bit sparse in January in central Vermont and these were my first of the year. After watching a couple more tree sparrows, several birds flew in and the robins hassled them. I got my glasses on them: waxwings — another bird I need. Soon about a dozen Bohemian Waxwings were going after the fruit on one of the trees.
It was a great morning after a poor start. I added four birds to my county list bringing my County Big Year total to 29. January goal is 35 — may just make it with a few more outings like today’s.