A Bald Eagle Comes For a Visit–Take 2

On December 13, I posted about the sighting of a bald eagle at Green-Wood.

Well, like so many others, it looks like our bald eagle is very much enjoying Green-Wood’s grounds. It has been seen several times by several people, including strollers, bird watchers, and members of our grounds crew.

Here’s Ryan Morrisey’s dramatic account of his spotting the bald eagle, over Sylvan Water,  just a few days ago:

. . . Let me preface this by saying I’m not a bird expert, and if one would even consider me a birder, I am in the infant stage. That said, I’ve studied all sorts of wildlife my whole life, and have at the least, a knack with nature. I’m new to photography, and find “hunting” for shots of birds a fun endeavor, along with any wildlife.

I live just a few blocks away, and have been stopping by Green Wood probably once a week to take pictures and stretch my legs. . . . On Friday the 6th I wanted to take a quick walk, so I was soldiering through it for the most part.

Anyway, to get to the chase, I tracked back a pair of hawks that were flying and perching, I think around Chapel Avenue. I saw them depart west, towards Sylvan Water, and I got the feeling they would be perching again, and not simply soaring, so I decided it may be worth heading that way to spot them. There was an active funeral on the south east side of Sylvan Water, so I did my best to respectfully skirt around that, while continuing west, where I would catch glimpses of a hawk flying through the trees. As I made it around the southwest bend, I spotted a Cooper’s hawk in a tree on the west side of Sylvan.

The Cooper's Hawk, perched near Sylvan Water.

. . . as I approached the Cooper’s it took flight and pursued a red tail hawk that had some sort of meal in its talons. They proceeded to fight in the air for what would end up to be around 2 minutes. They were concentrated over the trees on the north side of Sylvan. They were relatively far from me, but I took a bunch of pics to document the behavior

The hawks in combat.
The hawks, side by side.

As the two hawks continued to skirmish, I noticed a very large bird approaching. . . . I thought perhaps it was a turkey vulture, as I was never expecting to see a Bald Eagle in the grounds that day. It was flying east to west/northwest over Sylvan (Water) and was very intently approaching the hawk battle. From the angle and height that it was approaching, I very much feel that it was previously perched. . . when I first spotted it, it was relatively low, below the treeline. My initial instinct was that it may have been perched in one of the trees closest to the pond on the east side. Granted, the active funeral you think would scare it off, but perhaps not? Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was at first below the treeline and that I also had a bit of vegetation in front of me, it made it hard for me to get a good focus with my camera on the flying bird, and only managed the one photo. Around this time it was due north in front of me, and I saw the flash of the white tail, and realized that in fact, and to my surprise, this was a Bald Eagle.

The Bald Eagle.

Things get a little fuzzier here, but the two hawks scattered, and the eagle pursued them north, over and behind the hill above Sylvan. I saw them make several passes back and forth behind the trees, and I can only imagine that perhaps the eagle was still chasing the red tail for whatever meal it had in its grip. This was the first time I spoke with the grounds keepers, who pulled up in their pickup and enthusiastically asked “Hey, did you see the Eagle?” I’m not sure if they just saw it pass over the hill, where they came from [at this juncture I don’t think so] or rather saw it previously in the day and wanted to know if I saw it too. I was too busy still trying to follow the fracas. After several rotations the eagle (I stopped trying to follow the hawks by this point) receded below the crest of the hill (i.e. moved closer to the ground) and I lost sight of it. I rushed north, up Sunset Path, very much expecting to find the eagle perched somewhere in that area, most likely on the west side of the premises, but I was unable to locate it again. I made a big loop around the area hoping to find it perched, but was unsuccessful.

I’m not sure if the eagle is still in the area, but in no way would I classify this as a “fly by.” Even without proof of a perch, this eagle very definitely was in the cemetery grounds and having a very active interaction with two of the hawks within the grounds. I am certainly lucky to have witnessed it. 

Thanks to Ryan Morrissey for generously allowing me to post his photographs and account here.

If you would like to see more of Ryan’s photos from in and around Brooklyn you can find them here.

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