A Steller day!

Steller’s Sea-Eagle with 3rd-year Bald Eagle, showing the immense size.

Sunday, 19th December trembled with the news that a Steller’s Sea-Eagle previously present last month in Nova Scotia had, despite it’s enormous size and striking plumage, clandestinely made it’s way to Massachustetts. It had been reportedly seen on the 12th December, but news had not filtered out to the masses. It had been looked for in the same area but not found.

Monday, 20th December saw me bleary-eyed wander towards the coffee-maker, checking my phone messages. One message, from local Yale post-grad Severin Uebbing, had asked me if, “I was going for the eagle?” I might if it’s ever relocated I thought to myself, but then the next texts soon cleared my fugue state. News that some local Mass birders had relocated the eagle in the same area that very morning, and it was on view now, was shocking to say the least. “Pick you up after my coffee!”, I said.

And off we drove the two hours to the Mass/Rhode Island border, observers on site already relaying messages and tracking the bird as it moved up and down the river near Dighton State Park, Mass.
About 1/2 hour out, near Providence, we got news the bird had flown north and out of sight and was being looked for. Not good news. The tension was starting to bubble up to the surface. As we headed towards the last known spot on the west side of the river, we got an update that the bird was perched near the Taunton Marina. We were right at the marina, but couldn’t find a crowd, which was unsettling. Scanning the area, I quickly found the crowd – on the opposite side of the river, about 1/2 mile to 3/4 away. Damn – we’re on the wrong side!! Then I looked again and I realized they were all looking towards us….the bird must be in the trees right here, but we were blocked by a boat yard. Panic was starting to well up and a couple of birders showed up, including our friend Alex Lin Moore. We gained permission to access the boat yard and soon, on the far side, with a clear view to the north, we easily located the bird perched not too far away in great light. A veritable donkey in a tree with a bag full of carrots for a beak!! It dwarfed the Bald Eagle next to it. Result!!!

We soaked up the views until around 1:10pm, when the bird suddenly dropped out of the tree, flew north up river, circled high for a moment, showing it’s amazing white forewings, and then, when mobbed by a Raven, continued high to the NW and out of sight. It hasn’t been seen again.

A composite showing the dazzling pattern and stepped trailing edge perhaps suggesting that this bird is a younger adult.

The story of this individual’s wanderings can be found here in this NY Times article . I had been lucky enough to see many of these amazing beasts in Rauso, Hokkaido, Japan a few winters ago and include a few images below.

One Response to “A Steller day!”

  1. glyn sellors Says:


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