It has been a while since I was down at Juanita Bay. During the summer, the light is harsh, the heat haze is tough, and the humidity is uncomfortable. I also sometimes find myself getting bitten by stuff. However, a pleasant fall afternoon after work seemed like a good time to head down and see what was going on. Things were not too active, but it was nice to relax in the sun as the wildlife did its thing. Sure, an eagle did fly over at one point, but it seemed more interesting in annoying the other birds than actually hunting.
There were tons of coots on the water. They were grouped together with lots of preening and bathing going on along with the regular feeding. At some point, something happened to spook them, though. I don’t know whether there was really anything there or not. I wondered if an otter was under the water, but I never saw any sign of one. Whatever happened, the coots all seemed to get upset and they took off in bunches to go to another part of the bay. Some of them came very close to me so I got them “running” across the surface of the water to find somewhere they felt more relaxed.
A few times recently I have been down at Juanita Bay Park when the eagles have been hunting. While everyone thinks of bald eagles eating fish, they are also happy to eat birds if available. We have had large flocks of coots on the lake and they are a plentiful food source. They stay close together on the surface but, when the eagles fly close, the flocks will get startled and start fluttering around as they try to evade the predators.
The eagles are not bothered about the flock. They just want to isolate one of the birds which they can then take out. They will swoop around until they can take out one bird which they then land on top of and sit on it while it drowns. Once it has stopped moving, they take off and carry it back to the pole in the bay where they can eat at their leisure.
Before you eat a coot, you need to pluck it. The eagles make quick work of this and, with a breeze blowing, the air is quickly filled with feathers as they clean up their kill. Once that is done, time to tuck in to dinner. A coot is quickly eaten and then they fly off to a log to wash up before retiring to a tree to rest and digest. If there is anything left of the carcass, you can guarantee that the crows will be paying close attention and will close in to take care of matters.