Return of the Bald Eagle

October 3 was a good birding day. As anticipated, the cold front brought over ten new pelicans to White Rock Lake. Almost all of the pelicans, new and old, left their log and swam together in circles around the bay, hunting. While I was chasing them, K texted me and said she was coming down to Sunset Bay—she had the afternoon off. She followed the pelicans with me for a while and then went to the dock. I stayed out a little longer before deciding to go wait on the dock for the pelicans to wind their way back. When I got there, K pointed out across the water and said, “Eagle!”

I followed the direction of K’s finger and saw a large dark bird with a white head standing on one of the far-away logs where the pelicans loaf. She was only there for five minutes before she flew off in the direction of Winfrey Point.

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) standing on a log at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

The bald eagle on a log as viewed from the dock at Sunset Bay. She appeared to be eating something. At least here in North Texas I can be reasonably sure she didn’t steal it from an osprey, unlike the bald eagles in Central Florida.

The eagle walked across the log and dropped down into a lower section where we could barely see her unless she lifted her head. I told K that I was going to walk along the shore and find a better place to photograph her.

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) standing on a log at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

I was briefly distracted by the pelicans, and when I looked back, the eagle was no longer on her log but flying across the water.

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flying over water at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

Wings across the water, heads across the sky.

I arrived at Sunset Bay that afternoon thinking that watching four pelicans land way out by the far-away logs was going to be the only meaningful action of the day. I saw a pelican fishing squad, pelicans dispersing to logs and loafing areas closer to the dock, and a bald eagle.

K was extremely happy that she had visited that afternoon.

An Eagle, a Bee, and a DC-3

Early last week a bald eagle was sighted at Sunset Bay. She was first observed in the morning on one of the far-away logs that the pelicans favor. She sat out there for a couple of hours before she flew away.

Bald eagles are rare visitors to White Rock Lake. They have only been seen a few times in the past several years, so everyone was excited about the sighting.

Last Wednesday, the 24th, I went out to Sunset Bay to see Mister Mary Mack, my goose friend. I wasn’t thinking of the bald eagle until I walked to the dock and was stopped by two people who said they’d seen a pic of the bald eagle going around and asked where they could see the bird.

I told them that the bald eagle had only been seen the week before for a few hours, and I said that bald eagle sightings at the lake were very uncommon because the birds didn’t stay, just flew overhead or paused before resuming their travels. That sighting was a one-time type of thing, I said.

Ten minutes later a bald eagle flew overhead.

I had been sitting in the shade with Mister Mary Mack when I saw what I thought was a hawk flying over the waters of Sunset Bay. I was slow to get on my feet and get my camera ready because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a pic; the hawk was flying extremely high, and taking a blurry, tiny pic wasn’t appealing. As I got ready to photograph the hawk I thought of how BIG she seemed. Then I noticed the white tail. Not a hawk but an eagle! She was only briefly visible and seemed to disappear in the direction of Emerald Isle. She was grasping a fish in her claws; it wasn’t until I looked closely that I realized how large the fish must have been. Eagles are huge birds, and the fish was long enough that it extended well past her legs.

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) clutching a fish while flying at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

I went back out to the dock a little while later and ran into a birder who had just arrived and hadn’t seen the eagle. He filled me in: apparently the eagle had been seen off and on since the initial two-hour sighting. It wasn’t just passing through.

The bald eagle wasn’t my first sighting; I’d seen plenty when I lived in Florida. It wasn’t even my first Texas sighting; Q and I had seen one on our first trip to the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. But there was something thrilling about seeing that bird at the lake where I spend so much time and thus seems ordinary to me.

Now I hope to see an osprey. I used to see them all the time when I lived in Florida, and I miss them.

I moved on the Boathouse. August and September have been very static months for birds here—occasionally I would see a migrant, but mostly it has been mallards and mockingbirds and first-year egrets desperately hunting for fish. So I’ve been spending a lot of time watching insects.

I saw an absolutely beautiful bee with a shiny blue abdomen and pale green eyes. Earlier in the summer green-eyed bees would hang out around the flowers of a Mexican Hat plant I had planted in my front yard, but they were much smaller than the one I saw at the Boathouse. And the Boathouse bee behaved for me: it stayed on each flower for an extended amount of time and climbed onto nearby flowers to feed instead of flitting around. He turned out to be a male southern carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans. He posed for several minutes before flying away.

A male southern carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, feeding from a flower at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

A male southern carpenter bee, Xylocopa micans, feeding from a flower at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

Here he looks like a small child trying to pull himself up to a too-large table.

Q and I occasionally see historical airplanes and helicopters flying over our backyard or the lake as they are in transit to or from places like the Frontiers of Flight museum in Dallas; the Cold War Air Museum in Lancaster; the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison; and the Dallas Executive Airport, where the corporate headquarters are located for the Commemorative Air Force. I know almost nothing about planes, historical or modern, but Q knows plenty and tells me about the ones we see. Q can differentiate between what might be an interesting old plane from a boring modern one by sound. I can’t, so I take pics of almost everything that flies overhead that isn’t a Southwest jet. And something flew overhead.

A DC-3 aircraft, registration number N583V, flies overhead at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX

Hooray for the DC-3!

When I got home I googled the DC-3’s registration number, N583V, and was able to get quite a bit of information about the plane. She was used initially in America and in England during World War II, then was sold to a Canadian airline.

Apparently she had been sitting fallow for over thirty years before being restored and taking to the air again in 2012.

It was a good day to see flying things.