by Linda Farmer Harris
Yesterday I watched an eagle swoop down in our horse pasture, pick up a prairie dog, and carry it off. I was thrilled to see one less herbivorous burrowing rodent making holes in the pastures and preventing me from growing domestic grapevines.
Then Jerry asked if it was a Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle. Both hunt on our meadow and along the valley. Hmmm.
|Golden Eagle — Courtesy of Hope Rutledge|
Our national bird, the American Bald Eagle is in the family of sea or fishing eagles. The "bald" really does refer to the bald eagle's head. Their scientific name is Haliaeetus leucocephalus, that signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. The word "bald" at one time meant "white" not hairless. As of 2007, the American bald eagle is off the Department of Interior's Federal List of Endangered and Threatened. They are still protected under the 2007 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
The Golden Eagle is claimed by the hawk family that includes the Red-tailed Hawk, kites, and old-world vultures. Their well-feathered legs and feet are adapted for catching prey on the ground.
The Golden Eagle's scientific name is Aquila chrysaetos. If I described one of my story characters as having an "aquiline" nose (also called a Roman nose), I would mean the person's nose reminded me of an eagle's beak. Can you imagine a villain with hard, penetrating aquiline eyes?
|Golden Eagle photo courtesy of Murdo Macleod|
Seeing the eagle reminded me of the 1851 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Eagle." (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174589)
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Golden Eagles usually nest on cliffs, or sometimes in large trees. We are ringed by the San Juan Mountains and the new Chimney Rock Monument overlooks our valley. Lots of Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir, Colorado Spruce, subalpine fir, and cliffs to choose from.
Today we saw a Peregrine Falcon circling overhead across the two pastures. He (gender assumption) flew over the creek and up to the high meadow.
They also nest in rock outcrops and on high ledges of Chimney Rock. Most eyries (nest sites) are within a mile of water.
|Peregrine Falcon - Courtesy of Audubon Field Guide|
You can explore the Colorado Chimney Rock National Monument http://www.chimneyrockco.org/ from May 15th to September 30th.
|Harris P—R Ranch looking east to Chimney Rock, Colorado|
|Linda Farmer Harris|
Turning Tidbits of History into Unforgettable Stories
Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a hay and cattle ranch in Chimney Rock, Colorado. She writes historical fiction for adults and children. Her novella The Lye Water Bride is included in the California Gold Rush Romance Collection (Barbour Publishing, August 1, 2016).