Sunday, January 31, 2010

Looking for Golden Eagles

We went for a drive this afternoon down to Houston County in a search for Golden Eagles. We probably got too late of a start in the day and never did see any Golden Eagles, but it was a nice afternoon for a drive and isn't this beautiful country?
Our trip wasn't disappointing because we did manage to see quite a few Bald Eagles and Red-Tailed Hawks. Houston County also hosts Minnesota's largest population of deer and wild turkeys and boy, did we see deer and turkeys!

Here's the first small flock of turkeys we saw close enough to the road to photograph. When you see large flocks of turkeys together this time of year, they're almost always hens with the surviving youngsters they hatched last spring. (Sometimes you will see small groups of tom turkeys together also, but none of these that we saw had beards, so we knew they're hens with first year offspring.)

I have no idea what they find to eat this time of year, but apparently there's enough seeds that they're able to scrounge from the ground to survive through the winter.

Coming around another curve in the road we saw this big flock crossing the road. You definitely wouldn't want to drive too fast on this road!

Since the mortality rate of turkey poults is pretty high, I'm going to guess that this might be two family groups that have flocked together for the winter. They really weren't in any hurry to get across and I don't think this is a very heavily traveled road.

It was getting late enough in the afternoon that the deer were starting to move around from their sunny afternoon napping spots. Can you see the deer in the picture below? (click on the picture to enlarge it) Mr. Johnson spotted it and thought maybe it was dead, so we backed up to check for sure.

A quick look through the binoculars revealed the deer was definitely alive, but I noticed that it appeared to have an injured hind leg (where the orange arrow is pointing). Sure enough, after we sat there a bit longer, the little deer got up. Its hind leg was completely broken right at the "elbow" and just flopped as the deer hopped up the hill.
We wondered what the survival chances were for this poor little deer. Does the injured leg finally fall off? Or does the deer eventually die from infection? I've seen an adult doe with an injured and completely useless hind leg but she had twin fawns with her, so obviously she had been able to survive with her leg injury. Deer are some of the toughest animals I've ever seen.

Here's a nice healthy looking deer we saw on another hillside. They've gotta be tough to be able to survive a Minnesota winter.

Here's another big group of deer we saw on the drive home. They were taking advantage of the bountiful food supplies left behind from this recently picked cornfield.
We'll definitely head back to this area soon in another search for Golden Eagles, and probably look for some real estate for sale too, because this is about as close to bowhunter's paradise as we've ever seen.


troutbirder said...

It is gorgeous country down there all right. Supposedly the biggest deer in the state grow there as well. (I got that info from a map at the Pope and Young museum in Chatfield) On my limited experience it seems the goldens start moving around ten and knock off for the day about three. To identify them they need to be flying or you have to be really really close. Not to likely that second part. :)

Jayne said...

What a beautiful area Ruthie. The poults crossing the road reminded me of the guinea hens we have around here. They just lollygag and take their time too!

Anonymous said...

It looks like a nice time for a Sunday afternoon. You sure got to see lots of wild life and got some great pics too.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Ruthie, that first photo is gorgeous. What a lovely area!
I ache thinking of that injured doe. I guess nature can be cruel as well as beautiful.

Ruth said...

I have seen many wild turkeys this winter and they make me think of you. You pictures show winter scenery at its best. (not the poor deer though)

Mama Pea said...

Such beautiful territory. Thinking of it as a retirement spot?

Didn't you just want to somehow capture that injured doe, take her to a vet and get her fixed up? It would be about impossible, and we have to let nature take its course, but you sure do hate to see a beautiful creature like that suffer.

Back to a lighter note, really gorgeous scenery you showed us.

Deb said...

SE MN is so different from the rest of the state. I have not spent much time there but it looks beautiful!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ray,
I think we just got too late of a start Sunday afternoon. Of course that lunch stop at the new Kwik Trip at Nodine set us back a few minutes too!

Hi Jayne,
At one of the places I used to work they had a couple of guinea hens too. Noisy birds they were, but fascinating to watch (just like turkeys!)

Thanks Mom. The time sure went by fast on such a nice day.

Thanks Lynne. It's such a beautiful area with all the wooded hills and open valleys. I wonder if that deer didn't get nicked by a passing car? Or a leftover injury that was the result of a hunter's poor aim? It's not always nature that's cruel, but definitely nature that suffers....

Thanks Ruth. I would still love to attract turkeys to my backyard someday...they're so much fun to watch. Hopefully our weather will moderate soon and that poor little deer will have a better chance to survive.

Retirement spot indeed, Mama Pea! There was a 45-acre parcel for sale right along the road we were driving on, but not sure if we need or want that much acreage (although it sure would be nice!)

Seeing injured deer always breaks my heart too -- especially when it's probably the result of human actions.

It sure is different Deb, and I really notice the difference in terrain the closer we get to the Mississippi. There are some roads I've driven on in Houston County that really remind me of driving through the hills of West Virginia. It's very beautiful country!

Taos Sunflower said...

What great photographs! A beautiful day and a good expedition for seeing lots of wildlife. PS That poor deer...