Monday, October 23, 2006

Witness Claims a Washington Eagle Sighting


In recent posts, I have introduced the giant, Thunderbird-like Washington eagle and attempted to show how it could have existed in minimal populations undetected by science until modern days. These ideas have prompted a gentleman to finally go public with a giant bird sighting he and his wife shared in 2004. He now wonders if it wasn't a Washington eagle that he witnessed. Here is the email (reproduced with permission) that I recently received from William McManus (All caps left from e-mail):

SIR-- I'VE JUST SEEN YOUR PAGE BY CHANCE. I BELIEVE I MAY HAVE SEEN ONE OF THESE BIRDS AS RECENTLY AS TWO YEARS AGO . THE ILLUSTRATIONS YOU SHOW ARE THE FIRST ONES I'VE SEEN THAT DEPICT THE BIRD WE SAW. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN LATE WINTER, THERE WERE NO LEAVES ON THE TREES, ABOUT 2 1/2 YEARS AGO. WE LIVED IN A SMALL CABIN AT THE POINT WHERE THE APPLE RIVER FLOWS INTO THE ST. CROIX RIVER, ABOUT 15 MILES NORTH OF STILLWATER MN, ON THE WISCONSIN SIDE. THE WEATHER WAS CLEAR, AND WE OBSERVED THE BIRD ACROSS A SMALL MEADOW BETWEEN OUR CABIN AND THE RIVER CHANNEL. THIS IS A TYPE OF DELTA AREA, OF SEVERAL SQUARE MILES, WITH LOTS OF CHANNELS AND ISLANDS AND WIDE MARSHY AREAS, PRETTY MUCH LEFT WILD. THIS BEING ON A MAJOR MIGRATORY FLYWAY, WE ALWAYS CHECKED OUT THE ABUNDANT BIRD TRAFFIC, WHICH INCLUDED ALL KINDS OF MIGRATING WATERFOWL AND RAPTORS. WE WERE VERY FAMILIAR WITH TURKEY VULTURES, OWLS, HAWKS AND EAGLES, ESPECIALLY BALD EAGLES, AND HAD SEVERAL GUIDE BOOKS TO COMPARE TO WHAT VISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD. MANY MORNINGS WE WOULD WAKE TO THE SIGHT OF SEVERAL BALD EAGLES PERCHED ON HIGH BRANCHES OF COTTONWOODS AND SILVER MAPLE JUST AT THE EDGE OF THE APPLE CHANNEL. ONE MORNING THERE WAS A DIFFERENT MUCH LARGER VISITOR, PERCHED A LITTLE LOWER THAN WE’D SEEN BEFORE, IN A BRANCH PERHAPS 25 FEET FROM THE GROUND IN A DEAD TREE. MY WIFE SAYS THIS WAS NOT THE ONLY VISIT. WE KNEW IMMEDIATELY IT WAS NOT A BALD EAGLE (OR A JUVENILE BALD EAGLE) BECAUSE OF THE SORT OF DARK BRICK RED COLOR. BUT THE TRULY AMAZING THING WAS THE SIZE: IT SEEMED TO BE WELL OVER THREE FEET TALL PERCHED THERE. WE THOUGHT IT COULD HAVE BEEN A GOLDEN EAGLE, BUT IT WAS LARGER AND NOT THE RIGHT COLORING. WE OBSERVED IT FROM A DISTANCE OF MAYBE 60 YARDS FOR AS LONG AS TWO HOURS. I GUESSED IT WAS A CONDOR, AND FINALLY VENTURED OUT TO HAVE A CLOSER LOOK. I DON’T THINK I GOT VERY CLOSE—NOT LESS THAN 50 YARDS— AND MUST HAVE DISTURBED IT, BECAUSE IT TOOK OFF, AND IT CLEARLY WAS NOT A CONDOR BUT SOME KIND OF EAGLE, AND HAD THE HEAD AND BEAK OF AN EAGLE. IT HAD AN ENORMOUS WINGSPAN— FAR LARGER THAN A BALD EAGLE. I WISH I HAD BETTER NOTED THE PARTICULARS. AT THE TIME WE THOUGHT IT WAS JUST SOME EXOTIC OFF COURSE THAT WE DIDN’T HAVE A LISTING FOR. BEST WISHES,
WM. MCMANUS

1 comment:

Kurt N. said...

You might want to also check some of the photos archived with the Hawk Mountain bird observatory (Hawk Mt.is in PA) and the AOU regarding unidentified raptors. I have seen at least one photo of an unidentified large eagle that does not appear to be obviously a Bald or Golden. Speculation was in the sea-eagle category. I think the photo was from 1993 or thereabouts.