Giving Eagle His Space

Recently, I hiked the Bowman-Rosario Trail out to Rosario Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  At the beginning of December, we had a stretch of clear skies and cold temperatures.  For me, this is ideal weather for hiking and exploring.

Big rocks out in Bowman Bay are visible from the trail.  On the map, I believe these are the ones identified as Gull Rocks.  Usually, they are populated with dozens of cormorants, a real spectacle.  These are diving birds that like to gather together in such places to dry their feathers, preen, rest and socialize after fishing.  Such a group is called a "sunning."  On this morning, however, there were no cormorants.  I spotted just a single bird, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on the rock in the early December morning sun.

Here's a closer view of the eagle taken further along the trail.  I doubt this is a good vantage point for spotting fish in the bay.  Like other predators, eagles spend a lot of time just loafing.  There is a resident pair that I frequently see at West Beach in the park.  If Bowman Bay is part of their territory, this could be one of those birds.

About an hour later, I returned from Rosario along the same trail.  The eagle was gone now, and the rock was again becoming populated with cormorants.  Some were striking the "angel pose" to dry their feathers after diving.  These are probably Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritis), the most common of the three species that occur locally.  Oddly, the scientific name means "bald raven with ears" according to Latin for Bird Lovers.  Apparently the crests that form in the breeding season resembled ears to the explorer who named them.

Bald Eagles are known to prey on cormorants and will flee their colonies if eagles arrive.  Obviously, the cormorants of Bowman Bay were not about to give this eagle any temptation.  They waited patiently until the eagle was gone to return to their favorite roosting spot.