Sunday, December 20, 2009

An American Bald Eagle Study

…remember back on November 7 when I saw two beautiful American Bald Eagles flying over Caesar Creek Lake? I was so happy to see those two birds flying high in the sky so close to my house. Actually, I was beyond happy. I was ecstatic, awestruck…infatuated even, because it was the first time I had ever seen an American Bald Eagle flying in my town. My infatuation goes all the way back to 1967 when I was in the first grade and the bird was put on the endangered species list. At that time, conservation was huge, and we talked about the American Bald Eagle in school all the time. As a first grader, I knew the American Bald Eagle was threatened, even close to extinction--and we would probably NEVER, EVER see one in the wild—EVER! That was my reality, and that desperation was burned into my brain, and an intense love of the bird grew out of how fragile his stay on the planet was. We all knew about the DDT pesticide poisoning and how it had filtered into the lakes and streams, accumulating in the tissues of the fish the eagles ate, and causing the eagles to produce eggshells so thin they would break under the bird’s weight during incubation. It really was a hopeless and scary time, but…that is not the case anymore!! They are back, doing well, and can be regularly found in several places around Cincinnati!

…the Bald Eagle…is there a more intense looking bird? I love the oversized supraorbital ridge (the boney ridge above the eye) that puts a permanent snarl on his face. It’s really there to block the sun and help eliminate sun glare so he has an easier time hunting, but boy, oh boy, does it ever make him (and all hawks) look tough!

...the American Bald Eagle is my mom's favorite bird...this post is for you, mom!

An American Bald Eagle soaring over the water at at Caesar Creek State Park, Nov 7, 2009.

Beak Bit
A timeline of the American Bald Eagle's recovery in Ohio
To check on these dates, I went to my copy of Bruce G. Peterjohn’s, The Birds of Ohio. With such an amazing come-back story, it’s so cool knowing that a bird put on the endangered species list over 40 years ago is now living and breeding in our town!

Because the American Bald Eagle can live up to 30 years in the wild, their numbers remained stable even though the birth rate had dropped to almost zero due to the DDT which had poisoned their food supply in the 40s and 50s; however, as the older birds started to die, they were not replaced, and the American Bald Eagle’s population crashed. By 1979 Ohio was down to 4 or 5 pairs, and they weren’t producing many young. At this point, the Ohio Division of Wildlife stepped in and began managing the few pairs left by monitoring nests, trying to eliminate disturbances around breeding pairs, and transplanting young eagles into the nests of successful parents. These actions and the elimination of DDT in 1972 boosted Ohio’s Bald Eagle population to 12 pairs by 1989. In 1992 Ohio’s breeding population increased to 20 nests, 33 in 1996, and 57 in 1999. By the late 1990s, wintering eagle numbers soard to 100 -150 birds, and in a blog article from Cleveland.com from January 24, 2008, volunteers spotted an amazing 649 eagles during the Ohio Department of Natural Resources mid-winter survey. Of course, since the eagle is a water-loving bird and its diet consists primarily of fish, the largest concentration of eagles in Ohio is around Lake Erie, but as we well know, we have a few down in Cincy too...now!

...here are a few of my photographs of the bird from November 7, 2009...not nearly as commanding as the images made with a paintbrush, but you can at least make out his field marks!

Yes, oh yes...just 30 minutes north of our digs, this beautiful eagle was flying high.

...the Little Miami River is calling your name, bird...right at the bend near the Kings Powder Factory (or maybe that was me...).

...seeing the contrast between the white and black in the sky is beautiful.

...knowing this bird has fought its way back from near extinction is even more beautiful.

44 comments:

Bill S. said...

I love your paintings of the eagles.
I need to send you some picture of some of the eagles I have captured. With several hundred wintering in our area, I get a lot of chances for pictures.

Kelly said...

...thanks, Bill! I'd love to see you photos of the eagles. They are fun birds to paint.

Chris said...

Excellent Kelly. I love your paintings, they look so real! your shots are very nice too! I'd like to see one of this nice eagle one day!

The Early Birder said...

The accomplished artist at work again...Kelly, you captured the essence of this creature so perfectly.
I well remember my 1st sighting during my very first visit to US many years ago and it sent tingles up my spine. FAB.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Like Bill, I LOVE your paintings... You have SO much talent--and the eagles looks SO real. Amazing!!!!!

The information is also so interesting along with the photos. I love the eagles. Such a glorious bird. Thanks for sharing.

Hope your winter weather is not too bad, Kelly. We just got rain, sleeting rain, sleet and a itsy bit of snow.. Darn!!!

Hugs,
Betsy

Warren Baker said...

Welcome back Kelly! I love those paintings, what a talent to have. Our birds of prey were almost wiped out by DDT as well, but most are back from the brink now, all we have to do now is stop the gamekeepers shooting them. :-(

Tina said...

Kelly,
What wonderful watercolors of those eagles! You are very talented and captured the essence of that great raptor so nicely!!
I just attended a meeting on eagles last week and was amazed at their recent numbers here in Pa. As you said they are really making a come back. Keep showing us your paintings I love it!!

Laure Ferlita said...

Love the paintings! Great info too.

Thanks for sharing!!

Roy said...

The watercolours are beautiful Kelly, thanks for shairing them with us.

mick said...

A beautiful bird and an amazing 'come-back' story. Great paintings and photos. Wish all our environmental disasters could have a happy ending the way this one has.

Johnny Nutcase said...

what a great post, I loved reading it. Always nice to know other people are passionate about similar things :) your paintings are just awesome, really pretty! well done!

Carol Mattingly said...

Kelly, fantastic, just fantastic prints all the way around. Perhaps I need to come see if I can get a pic of these guys one day. Thanks for sharing this. Carol

Dave Lewis said...

Great paintings Peanut!
I like them better than my fuzzy photos!

HBFG said...

The Bald Eagle is also my favorite bird and as a child I could only dream about seeing one in the wild some day. Even on my first times visiting the US I kept wondering if I would ever be so fortunate to "meet" such a wonderful, magical being.

It was october 2006, somewhere in south Colorado. We went to look for them. Our good friend MJ had a friend working for the local wildlife refuge center. He told our friend where we might get lucky and we took the truck that same day and drove up the river.
At first nothing, then we spotted one sitting on a tree far far away.
Somewhat discouraged we went for lunch. While sitting and eating we decided to try again somewhat further up the river.
We were so excited. We drove slowly. And then we spotted two up in the air.
We pulled over and stepped out.
And then something wonderful happened, the numbers of eagles on the sky doubled and doubled again.
At some point we counted 15 of them.
I will never forget that day as long as I live and will always be thankful for this wonderful gift.

Glad you got to see them in your area!!! :))

eileeninmd said...

Nice post and wonderful paintings of the Eagles.

Larry said...

Beautiful paintings of the national bird Kelly! We saw several Bald Eagles on our Christmas Bird Count yesterday. What an inspirational conservation story they are!

I hope we can bring back the Burrowing Owl here in California with equal success.

Heather said...

Kelly, your painting always blows me away. These bald Eagle paintings are incredible! I think your love for the bird really comes through in the paintings. And I really love that new painting in your header - really beautiful and perfectly seasonal.

Tabib said...

Beautiful art work.
Good to know that this American Emblem recovered with massive conservation.

Happy Holiday!

Roy said...

Good work, Kelly! We have no Bald Eagles here although the occasional juvenile flies over on its teenage wanderings.

jveneman said...

BEAUTIFUL paintings, Kelly! Wow! You have so much talent!

Richard said...

Beautiful paintings Kelly. Think they are your best ever.

holdingmoments said...

A great post Kelly of a stunning bird.
So good to know they were brought back from the brink of extinction.

Superb paintings too. Really captured the might and majesty of that great bird.

Elaine said...

Lovely paintings! Your story of the successful comeback of the eagles in Ohio is very interesting. How exciting for you to witness something that you thought you never would. Did learning about the eagles in first grade start your interest in birds or were you already hooked before that?

oldcrow61 said...

They are gorgeous birds. We sometimes see them on the beach down the road.

Sue said...

The Bald Eagle was lucky, so many species are not. It does, however, show that if we put our minds to doing something, anything is possible. I too remember the time when these magnificent creatures were in trouble. Lets hope we can make the right decisions on other pressing subjects! Great paintings, Kelly! I really enjoy seeing your work.

Connie said...

I love your photos, but I'm really touched by your paintings. You've really captured the beauty of the eagle. Such talent.

Montanagirl said...

Terrific post, Kelly. I just love the Bald Eagles too, and your paintings of them are just amazing. You have a wonderful Holiday Season!

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

Oh I love these pictures a lot.

I need to remind you that nearly every photo I take is of a bird or animal in my small city backyard.

With that in mind, you can imagine how exciting it is to come through the house and look out the office window and see, for the first time in my life, a Brown Creeper on my oak tree not ten feet away from me.

Well, in the back of my mind, I have this picture of me walking out and seeing a bald eagle perched on the board fence. I keep looking and waiting and sure enough it will happen. I am running low on time though so it has to happen one of these days before too long.

With the recovery of the bald eagles in our state, it could happen, I guess. I am hopeful.

Uncommon Depth said...

Your paintings are excellent. I love the new blog header too. Keep up the great work! Best wishes for the holidays.

Bob and Cynthia Kaufman said...

Excellent paintings, Kelly! You have captured through your paint brush the majesty of our national emblem.

Susan said...

Great watercolours Kelly..You've definitely captured the snarl! On our Christmas Bird Count this past weekend, an immature Bald Eagle flew right over my head, not 20 feet up...I of course was too awestruck to even think of taking a photo - so kudos to you for at least getting some shots in!

Jenny said...

Fantastic post Kelly. Your paintings really are stunning! plus all the intersting info too! Thanks.

TonyC said...

Another great post Kelly......and those snowflakes gently falling....

Greener Bangalore said...

never knew you are such an amazing painter!!!...

dAwN said...

Awesome photo study Kelly..You really have captured the spirit of the eagle..just lovely!
and I like your bluebird down there too!
I am so glad to be visiting your blog..havent had internet connection in ages..just lucky to get one tonight.
Hope you have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Fantastic New year!
♥.•*¨* *¨*•.♥

Jayne said...

Mercies Kelly, I wonder if you even know just how talented you are girlie! Just BEAUTIFUL images of the eagle. :c)

JKoenig said...

Kelly, I always marvel at your photos and your paintings...plus the fact that I always learn something from your posts.

Thank you for sharing your special gifts and talents with all of us.

Blessings for Christmas and in the New Year!

Kelly said...

...thank you for you kind, kind comments! The American Bald Eagle has such an intense look on his face, he practically paints himself. We all seem to feel the same way...because we've lived through the stages of his comeback we appreciate how precious he is. I can't wait until I see my next bald eagle in the wild!!

Ken Januski said...

Hi Kelly,

Nice loose handling with the brush in your eagles. And also a very nice rendering of those two cardinals at top. I kept waiting for some to appear at our feeders so I could try a Christmas sketch but no luck. They only seem to appear at dawn and dusk when it's almost too dark to see them!

Merry Christmas!

Mary said...

Your paintings of the eagles are fantastic! Beautiful images!

Wren said...

Not only photos, but paintings - wow! You're very talented, not just representing the bird's appearance but capturing its spirit as well.

I, too, remember how close we came to losing them. I still get a lump in my throat when I see them in the wild.

Coy said...

It is a wonderful story of the recovery of a species brought about because people cared.

I remember well that when I was young eagles were something I only saw in books and magazines. Now I have the privilege to view and photograph them numerous times each year.

Merry Christmas Kelly!

Krista Meister said...

Your paintings amaze me, Kelly! I love watching your artistic talent grow.

-Krista
www.kristameister.com

NicoleB said...

Glad they are back around and well!
Those paintings are gorgeous - and so is that bird.
It must be wonderful to see one in the wild!