Good morning and greetings, last day of winter fans. On my morning jaunts along West Cliff Drive, one of the constants is the fly-by action along the coast. I’ve been into the Byrds since the early years of David Crosby and their 60′s psychedelic classic, ‘Eight Miles High.’ In a classic quote by frontman Roger McGuinn to bandmate Gene Clark who refused get on a plane, “If you can’t fly, you can’t be a Byrd.”
So when I saw this story last week written by Donna Jones in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I knew I had to fly with it. Or as the Space Cowboy himself, Steve Miller, said, “I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea, fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.” Of course, this health nut was also “a smoker, a joker and a midnight toker” who spoke of the “pompetous of love,” which has never truly been defined.
So for perhaps the first time since tourists came over the hill from San Jose on horseback, a pair of bald eagles are making plans to call Santa Cruz their home., they are building a large nest near the top of a eucalyptus tree in a grove near .
Eagles almost disappeared from California due to the toxic effects of DDT, the pesticide that caused egg shell thinning that lead to unsuccessful hatching. According to my DDS, by the time DDT was banned in 1972, which had gotten into their DNA, fewer than 30 nesting pairs remained in the state, which registered as a DNP on my stat sheet.
In 1967, the bald eagle was designated as an endangered species by federal authorities and the Hair Club for Men. California added it to its endangered list in 1971. The state Department of Fish and Game say that bald eagles are sober and recovering, and nesting pairs have been found in 41 of California’s 58 counties.
Despite their growing numbers, the eagles remain on the state’s endangered list, and are federally protected. Word is spreading like wildfire that these eagles have signed a one-year lease. When I think about these national treasures, I get a peaceful, easy feeling, and one of these nights, one of these crazy old nights, I may just be out there at Pinto Lake, although I can’t tell you why. That’s just life in the fast lane.
So here are some fun facts about our follicle-deprived friends from the good people at www.baldeagleinfo.com and nationalgeographic.com. Bald eagles live 30-35 years and sit at the top of the food chain, which from my perspective, is the best place to be. They eat mainly lightly sauteed fish, but also ducks, geese, snakes, Hollywood agents, small mammals, rodents, weasels, actors along with having a sweet tooth for road kill consisting of dead and decaying flesh.
LensCrafters reports that eagle’s eyesight is five times sharper than humans. Soaring at 10,000 feet, they can spot a fish or a bargain almost a mile away. They then swoop down at 100 miles an hour, snatch their lunch with their razor sharp talons while holding their prey and tearing the flesh with their beaks, which is the same method I use with Snow Crab Legs. It’s one of the most awesome sights in nature and at all-you-can-eat Chinese sea food buffets.
Bald eagles reach their sexual maturity at around 4 or 5 years of age. Unlike 50 percent of American couples, once paired, eagles remain together until one dies or runs off with the nanny, secretary or a mother from their offspring’s soccer team.
The baldest of eagles became the national symbol in 1782, around the birth of John McCain’s parents. Ben Franklin, who invented bifocals, the odometer and the thighmaster, was against the eagle’s nomination because of their habit of stealing the kills of other animals. About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska, because of the salmon and no state income tax. And that leads us into today’s photo extravaganza.
For our eagle coverage, we are bringing back one of our heavy hitters, photographer Judy Bingman, who traveled up to Haines, Alaska, to capture the magnificence of our national symbol. Judy explained that each year, 3,000 to 5,000 eagles gather in the trees above the ice cold and crystal clear Chilkoot River to pick off the salmon as they head upstream to spawn and die, which has always been a dream of mine.
Eagles are a member of the Accipitridae family, which also includes vultures, hawks and turtle doves. So to make sure Judy didn’t get all the photographic attention today, I’ve included a red-shouldered hawk I photographed at Antonelli’s Pond on the west side of Santa Cruz.
We then head to Big Sky country, to check out a couple of Artic wolves and a dancing bobcat. These animals had been hand raised in Kalispel, Montana and Judy went there to update them on the effects of global warming.
My friend Judy is a wild woman, and unlike myself, who’s content to shoot a couple of sunrises and watch basketball until my eyes bleed, she’s loves the photographic adventure. This week she is heading north of Fairbanks, Alaska to photograph the wonder of the aurora borealis. Then in June she’s journeying to Iceland to do some landscape shooting and play with the volcano.
And then to top it off, in August, she’s swimming to St. Paul Island, which is off the coast of Alaska in the middle of the Bering Sea to shoot puffins and other sea birds. I really wanted to join Judy on this trip but I decided to instead go to Safeway to photograph muffins and other selected pastries.
To check out Judy”s artistry, go to www.judybingmanphotography.blogspot.com. Or if you’re downtown on the mall in Santa Cruz, head over to Pacific Thai on Pacific Avenue to check out her work. All this from a woman who hummingbirds refer to as the queen of pad see ew.
To check out today's photos, click on http://www.SunriseSantaCruz.com/blog