Time to head to the docks or should I say a dock. I’m heading out on an Eagle/Osprey cruise. I last went on one of these trips on a cold day in February 2011. Of course I picked the coldest day of the year to go at that time. https://aroundustyroads.com/2011/03/04/eagles-on-the-connecticut-river/
This time the weather seems a bit warmer even with the stiff breeze.
The cruise leaves from the dock at Eagle Landing State Park which is located in Haddam across the river from the Goodspeed Opera House.
I am always impressed by how personable and knowledgeable the crew of Riverquest is about the sights along the river and the birds that can be seen. They are the ones who first pointed out Gillette Castle and gave a thumbnail history. They also knew the ID and history of the impressive building that turned out to be St. John’s. Plus they have “eagle” eyes when it come to spotting birds!
Today the cruise is billed as an Eagle and Osprey tour and we certainly got to see Osprey. We also got off to a quick start with the eagles. Barely out from the dock 4 birds were spotted circling very high up. Binoculars came out and a discussion ensued but finally it was determined that there were 4, possibly 5 juvenile eagles soaring on the thermals.
Juvenile eagles are not as distinctive as their more mature counterparts. They start out brown and progress through stages as they age. An eagle expert can tell the age of a juvenile by how much “mottling” the feathers show. They don’t get the trademark white head until they are 5 years old.
We started watching Osprey right at the dock. A pair are trying to build a nest on the center tower of the swing bridge but are having a tough time because of the wind.
As we headed down the river it seemed like every buoy or marker had a pair of Osprey trying to build a nest. It was clear that there is a thriving population of Osprey on this section of the Connecticut River.
We also saw double crested cormorants, a peregrine falcon buzzed the bow of the boat, and even a red-shouldered hawk (as opposed to a red tail hawk) took to the thermals watching for prey. Common mergansers with their funny “bad hair day ” crest floated on the river while Black Backed gulls patrolled the skies.
We passed a mute swan and spotted a loon. And then we saw the large eagle nest on an island ahead of us. The captain brought the boat in as close as he could but even then it was pretty far away. At least it wasn’t hidden by leaves yet so we had a clear line of sight and there they were. Two adult eagles , fully mature, with their white heads gleaming in the afternoon sun. As one moved off the nest to a nearby tree we could just make out the head of a baby eagle above the edge of the nest.
The pictures aren’t great because of the distance but lack of pictures didn’t dampen the excitement of seeing these gorgeous birds in the wild.
All in all it was a successful and enjoyable trip down the Connecticut River and I will continue my quest for that iconic photo of an eagle in the wild. Maybe I’ll get a chance in Alaska!