I’ve been stopping by the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) quite often over the last several weeks. My visits have primarily been for scouting around and seeing what’s what, but the vividly colored fall foliage and the abundant wildlife have also been important factors in my returns.
One surefire draw for me has been the reports of Bald Eagles wintering on LLELA’s 2000 acres. I’ve never seen a Bald Eagle in the wild, much less in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. More and more, LLELA seemed like the place to rectify this.
I have often wondered if I would recognize anything different about a Bald Eagle if and when I ever saw one. We have lots of different species of raptor in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and they can sometimes be difficult to differentiate, especially under poor viewing conditions. As it turns out, there was no question I was seeing something new when I spotted this Bald Eagle. This bird was bigger, browner, and more angular than our more commonly seen hawks and vultures.
When we first noticed the eagle, he was several hundred yards/meters away. He was flying low over the tree tops and often obscured by branches. These were not optimal viewing conditions, but I started taking pictures anyways. My hope was that at least one would be good enough for a positive identification.
Well, as soon as it had begun, the sighting was over. The eagle took off down the river and was soon gone from sight. I came away with a few pictures, and only one was clear enough to allow us to verify the identification. Fortunately, one is all it takes!
The bird we saw is a juvenile. Adult Bald Eagles do not develop the familiar white head and tail feather until their fourth or fifth year. The speculation is that this may be a third year bird still in the mottled brown plumage of youth.