adventures in nature

“Call me Ishmael” (quest for the white eagle)

“Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

– Opening paragraph from Moby Dick by Herman Melville

It isn’t upon a ship by which I seek to clear the cobwebs from my spirit and soul, but rather wandering through these beautiful lands that we live, often looking up to the feathered ones knowing my troubles fall away to the Earth as the rest of me is swept up watching their dance on invisible pathways in the sky.

With my friend Captain Larry “Ahab” Broderick of West County Hawk Watch – “the raptor magnet” – at the helm, we and the rest of our crew were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the white whale, er, eagle. This last weekend we attended the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls, OR, to see the largest density of bald eagles together in one place in the lower 48 states. And to add to the spectacle, we were blessed to see one of only two known leucistic (also called dilute plumage) bald eagles in North America.

leucistic bald eagle / Klamath County OR / Feb 2012

leucistic bald eagle (aka dilute plumage)

Most adult bald eagles have the distinctive white head and tail in contrast to a very dark brown body that makes it very easy to recognize – this bird has the typical white head and tail, but its entire body and wings are covered with white and light brown feathers making it appear almost all white.

Below you can see the difference, during our first sighting the bird landed in a field and was joined by another adult bald eagle with typical plumage. We also are surmising that the light bird is a male, based on the fact that it is quite a bit smaller than the other eagle – that and it’s been heard said among the lady eagles in the area that it often leaves the toilet seat up.

leucistic bald eagle / Klamath County OR / Feb 2012

leucistic bald eagle perched

leucistic bald eagle / Klamath County OR / Feb 2012

leucistic and standard plumage bald eagles

leucistic bald eagle / Klamath County OR / Feb 2012

leucistic bald eagle in flight

We actually were able to find the bird on two consecutive days, and the second day we got some really good looks at it both perched and in flight. When it took off, it flew to the South and then circled back to go over our heads, finally alighting on a pine tree by a farm house in the distance to continue its brooding in solitude.

Amazingly beautiful bird.

leucistic bald eagle / Klamath County OR / Feb 2012

leucistic bald eagle in flight

Special thanks to Larry Broderick of West County Hawk Watch for sharing his vast knowledge, keen eye, and expert raptor identification skills with us on this adventure, as well as for making this trip possible.

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