By Jack McShane
There was something about that moment when the sky was blue on a crystal sunny day, and although the temperature was in the twenties it was magic when two bald eagles appeared in that sky, circled and then dropped down into one of my own fields. An unimaginable dream in my youth or any other time for that matter, but now not a dream but a real experience. The raptors’ presence caused Nancy to ask me if the wild turkeys that are attracted to the overflow from the birdfeeder were now in mortal danger. My response was that I think a mature turkey was too large for them, but a poult in the spring or summer might make a desirable target. Twice I have seen the accumulated turkeys below the feeder suddenly stiffen and look up, only to see that a bald eagle flying overhead was the cause of their concern. Uh oh, it is January 17th and I have had no response from my grouse friend in the ten days of occasional eagle presence. Now, January 19th: he responded to my call and accepted a handout. Whew! He seems now very, very leery, tilting his head, scanning the sky for the now often-present avian predators.
The ongoing eagle project is focused on the golden eagle, (not the bald eagle of which, in the early 60’s there were just two in NYS; now there are about 500 bald eagle nests.) Rather it is an attempt to capture two golden eagles that have been previously caught and fitted with transponders that for some reason are no longer working. Both were caught and fitted two years ago right here in our Andes environs and have passed through or hung out in winters since. There are two out there with working transponders that have migrated south from Canada where they nest. One is now residing in the Adirondacks and the other, named Marie, near Kerhonkson, where my son lives. He is quite sure he observed her on one of his forest jaunts. As of now we are entering a very deep freeze and I am sure the eagle bait which presently consists of six or seven road-killed deer is probably solid as a rock, and it is only the tearing up by the local coyotes that might keep the flesh somewhat available to the eagles’ foraging attempts. The road-killed deer are picked up by local volunteers from the various town highway departments. These volunteers are approved by the DEC to collect, transport and place the deer on the eagles’ site. The whole project is sanctioned and overseen by the federal government, as both our bald and golden eagles are federally-protected species.
On January 26th the installed cam at the site caught a fisher partaking of the frozen bait pile in the middle of the night. This elusive and little-known mustelid, a hunter/scavenger with crampon-like claws, may aid the many coyotes visiting the site with the breaking upt of the frozen carcasses. And speaking of the elusive fisher of which I have had only two sightings in my lifetime, my good wife Nancy told me of her own very exciting fisher sighting. It was on Wednesday, January 29th, which was a very cold sunny day with intermittent snow squalls, at approximately 3:30 pm that she spotted out our kitchen window one of these normally nocturnal critters giving chase to a rabbit over a fresh layer of deep snow. The rabbit bounced over the snow with the fisher about 5 to 10 yards behind in one direction, then another, then under some Norway spruce trees, with low hanging branches giving cover of sorts. The rabbit bounced out in a new direction and finally out of sight. Was it a successful chase? Unknown. That evening we saw a rabbit feeding contentedly in a thick blackberry patch. Was it the same one? A survivor? Unknown. Was it the same fisher caught on cam at the baited site? Again unknown.
Fun time: Now that my friend and co-writer for the Gazette, Mel, has become keen on some ecosystem-enhancing methods to employ as he goes about tending to his various landscapes, I feel compelled to comment. The fact that a wide and wild growing edge between the forest and the manicured landscape is very beneficial to a wide array of wildlife is common knowledge to most naturalists. I only hope that if Mel with this new “bee in his bonnet” will be able to accommodate to the potential influx of plant-eating deer and rabbits. Mel might employ a deer hunter or two, and I could send over a fisher. Ecotone dilemma resolved?~