We weren’t the only ones using Denman Island’s new community wharf when we pulled in to the dock one morning earlier this summer. Purple martins and their fledglings were active at the nest boxes, and shorebirds paddled serenely nearby.
A peaceful scene indeed – until a mature bald eagle landed on the railing of the pier just above. While I rushed to grab my camera, the raptor swooped briefly over the water, quickly returning to its perch with a tiny catch gripped in its powerful talons.
The eagle made short work of its prey, plucking and dismembering it, and soon sported a mouthful of feathers, as you can see above.
When the meal was over the eagle undertook an elaborate ritual, just like the songbirds do at our backyard suet feeder: repeatedly wiping first one side of its beak, then the other, against the wooden railing. (This is called “feaking”, shown above, and it serves to keep the beak clean and sharp.)
Though not exactly “pretty”, the unfolding scene made for an interesting photographic shoot – while at the same time raising some unsettling questions. Were fish so scarce this summer that mighty bald eagles have to rely on tiny birds like this? And could this hapless victim have been one of the purple martin fledglings I’d been admiring just moments before?
The images in this post, along with many of my others, are available for purchase as stock photography from Alamy.