There is a nest nearby. I can’t see it, but I know it is tucked high in the tall Douglas-fir overlooking the river.  

Photo from Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Most Bald Eagle nests are within one-half mile of a body of water. After all fish is one of their favorite foods. The water, in this case, is a coastal shoreline and the Coquille River. Bald Eagles will also nest near bays, lakes, farm ponds, especially if they can find large trees, an unobstructed view of the water, and few humans.

Their shadows smoothly slide across the grass. Today they hunt.

Bald Eagles will hunt over large areas soaring up to 10,000 feet. In addition to fish, they will also take other animals such as birds, turtles, and mammals (like rabbits and rodents). They are not particularly fond of mammals, but will take them or mammal carrions.

Carrion, particularly in the winter, is frequently scavenged. They are considered to be an opportunistic predator meaning that they hunt when necessary and scavenge carrion when possible.

Every once in a while, they fly back to the nest clutching a large and noticeably heavy fish. Makes a weird shadow. Scares the little birds.

These large raptors are scary. They can sport a wingspan of up to 8 feet! Their body is just a few inches short of a yard. Adult birds can weigh upwards of 14 lbs. As with many birds, the females are larger than the males.

Bald Eagles will hunt other birds (such as geese and gulls). They are known to harass other eagles and Ospreys in an attempt to steal food from them. They are also known to occasionally steal food from other mammals and occasionally humans.

Big birds need big nests.

Bald Eagles build some of the largest nests of any bird. The size will depend on the supporting tree but are often 5-6 feet in diameter and 2-4 feet tall. The nest can weigh upwards of a ton! The largest recorded Bald Eagle nest was found in St. Petersburg, Florida. It measured nearly 9 ½ feet in diameter and just over 20 feet tall.

Building a nest is serious business and can take up to three months to build. These nests may be used over many years with additional materials being added each year. Sometimes ground nests, on cliff sides may be built.

One glance and you know what the little birds see.

Feathers of the adult Bald Eagle are quite distinctive with the white head and tail, brown body, with yellow beak, eyes, and feet. The distinctive color appears when the bird reaches four to five years of age. Both sexes have similar plumages.

Bald Eagles live a long time.

The oldest recorded wild bird, killed by a car in 2015, was at least 38 years old. Birds in captivity are known to live even longer.

Want to know more?

The Bald Eagle is one of the most studied North American birds and is the only sea-eagle found throughout North America. To learn more, visit the following references:
–Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, My ODFW “Raptors” (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/raptors)
–All About Birds, The Cornell Lab (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/…)
–Oregon Wild (https://oregonwild.org/wildlife/bald-eagle)
–USDI, Fish and Wildlife Service “Bald Eagle” (https://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/articles.cfm?id=149489418)

Royalty free; Thank you Edward Taylor, Unsplash

In the grassy field, two bull elks posture, bugle, and antler-wrestle for herd dominance and to attract cows. The herd casually look on as these nearly 1,100 pound beasts duke out ritualized mating behaviors and risk dangerous injury from the nearly six foot antler racks.

Almost enough to lose your antlers over.

Actually, the antlers are shed each year and people hunt for them. Shed hunting (or angler hunting) closes during the winter to protect big game, and reopens in April (see https://myodfw.com/articles/responsible-shed-hunting).

In the early summer, the antlers grow rapidly and become polished. During this time, the larger males (which are solitary most of the year) join together. By July, the antlers become polished and males begin searching for untended cows or those tended by less formidable males.

Herds

Cows form herds that include adults and juveniles which tend to stay in relatively small and distinct areas. An older cow with offspring will typically provide the leadership. Younger mothers will fill-in as needed. There is considerable exchange of individuals among adjacent herds.

Food

Most of the year, Roosevelt elk feed on grasses and sedges. In the winter, they will eat more woody plants such as berries (highbush cran-, elder-, salmon-, and blue-), devil’s club, mushrooms, lichens, and other young seedlings.

Nuts & Bolts

Roosevelt Elk are one of the four surviving races of elk (which are a species of deer) in Oregon. These elk are the third largest land mammal in North America and have a population in Oregon of around 59,000. Elk are found in temperate Pacific Northwest rainforests and throughout northern California. They are also called Olympic Elk.

How they got their name….

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt created what originally started out as an elk reserve in Washington state. but now the Olympic National Park in Washington state. Later, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the region and named the elk after his relative “Teddy” and created the Olympic National Forest the following year.

Elk are hunted as a game species; the meat is leaner and higher in protein than beef or chicken. See the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for permits and restrictions.

Want to see them?

Check out the Dean Creek Elk Reserve, just three miles east of Reedsport, Oregon on Highway 38 (https://www.blm.gov/visit/dean-creek-elk-viewing-area). This year-around reserve is home to about 60-100 Roosevelt Elk which are visible almost every day. While there is no overnight camping, there are many turnouts on the highway, restrooms, and no fees. Before you go, be sure to download the Dean Creek Viewing Area brochure at https://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/files/brochures/Dean%20Creek%20Elk%20Viewing%20Area.pdf

REFERENCES:
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Viewing at: https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/hoofed-mammals and /big-game-hunting/species/roosevelt-elk
USDI Bureau of Land Management, Dean Creek Viewing Area (https://www.blm.gov/visit/dean-creek-elk-viewing-area)
Wikipedia, Elk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roosevelt_elk)

What kind of fish is always looking up? A Halibut.

Photo courtesy of ODFW

The first time you see a halibut could be a surprise. Halibut are flatfish with eyes on one side of their bodies and some are giant!

Things are looking up

Halibut don’t start out as a one-sided. As a larva, halibut have eyes on both sides of their head. As they begin to mature, their left eye migrates over their snout to the right side of their head. They begin swimming one-sided which facilitates living on or near the ocean floor. They are always looking up. Hunting.

But wait, there’s two

There are two varieties of halibut off the southern Oregon coast: California (Paralichthys californicus) sometimes known as California Flounder and Pacific (Hippoglossus stenolepis). The two are very different. If you pull in one that is over 30 lbs. there is a good chance that it is a Pacific.

What if they are smaller?

It gets harder to identify them when they are smaller. The easiest way to identify them is to compare the lateral line shape. Pacific halibuts have a straight lateral line; California have an arched that goes above the pectoral fin.

Halibut Comparison:

Let’s dive a little deeper for more comparisons.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. Fish and Wildlife, MyODFW (https://myodfw.com/articles/2019-halibut-newsletter#pacific)
–US Fish and Wildlife Service (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/pacific-halibut   and /species/California-halibut)
–Wikipedia, Pacific Halibut (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_halibut)
–Fish Watcher (https://www.fishbase.in/summary/514)
–National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Studying bottom-dwelling fishes and crabs of the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf,” BobLauth(https://archive.fisheries.noaa.gov/afsc/Science_blog/EBS_6.htm)