JAMESTOWN, Pa.- Weather conditions at Pymutuming State park were less than ideal for the Tweetspeak group. Strong winds and consistent rain made the day miserable for some, but the trip was not a total loss. The weather was perfect to spot many species of waterfowl. The Blue-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, and Rudy Ducks appeared to be right at home in the rain. Warmer temperatures also welcomed a new comer to the area. After several minutes of observation, we were able to identify am Eared Grebe. This particular sighting was special to us because this bird is not local to our area. We were able to catch it as it took a quick rest during its migration. The Audubon Guide to North American Birds provides a distribution map for the Eared Grebe which shows it winters in areas of the southern U.S. and Mexico. It stopped in Pymatuming as it was traveling north to Canada where they breed.
Despite the weather we were also able to spot some raptors like the Bald Eagle. It was no surprise to see these birds because Pymatuming is one of the only places in Pennsylvania where Bald Eagle populations have been sustained even through their decline throughout the rest of the country. Bald Eagles are birds of prey which means they need to catch their food. According to the National Eagle Center a Bald Eagle’s diet consists of mainly fish. To catch their prey eagles generally watch the water surface from a perch or while soaring in the air. Once they see a potential food source they swoop down close to the water and drop their feet in to snatch the fish. Knowing this made me wonder, how does weather conditions affect a Bald Eagle’s ability to hunt? From my own experience, I know that certain light and wind conditions make it difficult to see fish under the water. There was heavy cloud cover and the winds made the water surface choppy. The eagles we saw could have been looking for fish. Although we would not be able to see any an eagle’s eye sight is five times stronger than ours. Even if they couldn’t see any fish the eagles wouldn’t have to go hungry.
The Audubon Society tells us that Bald Eagles are opportunistic hunters. This means they will take any easy meal they can get. Like a Turkey Vulture it is not uncommon to see an eagle snacking on a dead carcass, or carrion. Eagles also have to be aware of each other. The reason behind this is that eagles are known to steal a catch from other eagles. Even in poor weather, Eagles can still find a meal.