The hubby and I went to Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia a few weekends ago. It’s about 20 miles from Washington, DC, and a world apart. The refuge is on a spit of land (the Mason Neck peninsula) along the Potomac River, and was established in 1969 specifically to protect bald eagles, which were then, but are no longer, an endangered species in the U.S. We return there periodically to get away from suburbia, stretch our legs, admire nature and – if we’re lucky – see some bald eagles.
We hiked through the woods to a point along the river where you can sit in a small wooden blind and look out over the water. The trees on the opposite side of the river there are tall, making it prime real estate for nesting eagles. It was late afternoon by the time we got to the blind, maybe an hour before sunset, so we didn’t have a lot of time to sit and wait. At first all we saw was groups of ducks flying by, but all of a sudden my husband called out, “What’s that?” and I saw a huge, dark bird winging silently along the river. Before we could get a good look, the bird disappeared beyond our sight. It didn’t have the characteristic white head and tail feathers of a bald eagle, but by all other measures it looked like an eagle.
In fact, as I confirmed in my Audubon Society field guide to birds when I got home, it was an immature bald eagle. Over the next 5 or 10 minutes, we saw a few more immature eagles fly back and forth along the river. No matter how many times I see these birds, they always make me gasp. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the eagles. But I did take some other photos on our hike, and I’ve posted some of them in the slide show below.