This Is For the Birds


Pennypack Park at the Delaware River’s Bald Eagles’ Nest in Philadelphia, PA.

It’s beginning to feel a whole lot like winter.

With today’s wind chill, it felt that way for sure.

Got the long handles out to wear again for another four months to come.

The secret is to dress in layers for staying warm, which includes thermal socks, a flannel shirt, waterproof hiking boots, gloves, a toque, scarf and hooded sweatshirt under the leather jacket. It’s still not cold enough yet for the big coat though.

Ready for tackling the arctic, I headed out to visit my neighborhood bald eagles at Pennypack Park on the Delaware this afternoon, which can whip up a blustery wind from the river and whirl it around like a cyclone.

The last few times I visited the birds, only the female was around. I hadn’t seen her mate since the early summer and feared for the worst. Someone had told me he was killed in a fight, which really bummed me out.

Toward the end of the summer, several bald eagles in Delaware had been reported dead due to mysterious circumstances, adding more paranoia about the demise of one of my favorite raptors, whom I’ve been following closely for the past several seasons.

One thing nice about the bald eagles is they stick around the area for the entire year. Most of the other birds, like my beloved ospreys that keep me occupied from spring to fall, have migrated south for the winter.

A few species of small birds winter in the Philadelphia area: pigeons (rats with wings), some sparrows, cardinals, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, plenty of robins, wild turkeys (not so small) and juncos, but not enough to satisfy my photography Jones as do the eagles in the region.

Then, of course, those blasted Canadian geese invade the territory, along with various varieties of ducks from the Great White North—which I love to see— and herons too. A few hawks have been around as well.

The female Burlington Island bald eagle made an appearance when I stopped there last week, but only saw their empty nest yesterday.

The male at Core Creek Park’s Lake Luxembourg in Langhorne posed for some shots a couple of weeks ago.

The Andalusian eagles have been MIA so far during the latter part of this year.

Back to the Pennypack birds, an empty nest greeted me upon my arrival, as seen at the top of this essay. After hanging out for a while, I was about to split when the female arrived suddenly and perched on a branch obscured, although enough of her was in view for me to take a couple of shots.

The past few times that I visited, the female bypassed the tree and perched on the lights at the men’s jail yard; so it was a pleasant surprise to see her land there.

After a bit, she hopped into the nest, during which time I took a couple of pictures; but the eagle was pretty-well hidden from the naked eye. With the sun’s setting earlier and earlier as the forthcoming winter approaches, taking photos outdoors in low-light conditions isn’t conducive for clarity, prompting me to bid the bird and Pennypack Park adieu.

While sorting through this afternoon’s photo-shoot, I noticed another white head was in the nest beside the female. Looking at another shot, I was elated to discover Pete, the elusive male, was in there with his mate, as seen below:

December is the start of this pair’s mating season, which, from now through January, the birds will be fixing up their nest for a new brood and doing the mating ritual, which I’ve never witnessed; but maybe this time luck will find this photographer and allow some pictures of the sensational display.

The female should lay her eggs by February, and after seven weeks, we’ll be looking for offspring. This past season didn’t produce any. Hopefully this next one will.

For full-size photographs of the area bald eagles and other birds from this part of the country, please click here.

Thanks for stopping by to share in my bird-watching adventure, and for your continued support.

About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at
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