Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 28, 2011

Could it be…?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:53 am
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Typical eagle nesting habitat

“Let’s get closer. They’ve got to be here somewhere.” Tricia had been seeing a pair of Golden Eagles here in Salt Valley for two months now, and her well-honed wildlife instinct had kicked into overdrive. She was on an eagle quest like a bulldog on a rabbit. We parked our truck on the Salt Valley Road, a dirt ribbon running the length of the collapsed anticline bisecting Arches National Park{LINK}, and grabbed our packs to hike toward the cliff face where active eagle nests had been documented in past years.

Under our feet, an old cowboy camp came to life. Rusted-out tin cans, some old enough to have solder on the bottom, dotted the sand. A handful of very cool glass bottles and jars of all types, most still with lids, lay here and there glinting in the sun. An ancient piece of automobile looked up like an alien eye. Herds of cattle, and their iconic keepers, had been through here many times in the old days, even though pickings were slim and water scarce.

Maybe a couple football fields’ distance from the rocks, a cactus-free patch of sand beckoned us to set up our spotting telescopes. Our binoculars told us there were patches of whitewash on the wall, indicating birds’ presence, but we needed detail. One old stick nest appeared to have two ravens occupying it, a pretty common occurrence. We pulled out our folders from the four known nests and systematically compared what we saw with the photos… and then watched the sky.

Right on cue, an adult Golden Eagle soared over the cliff on one of the day’s perfect thermals. Circling effortlessly, he grabbed our attention and we locked our binocs on him. Within minutes his lifelong mate appeared in the vast blueness. Two adults! And neither incubating! Our hearts jumped. “Take the one on the right, Kathryn, and don’t lose it. I’ve got the one on the left,” Tricia instructed with urgency. “We’ve got to watch them until they land.”

… to be continued tomorrow…

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