He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
“The Eagle” — Alfred Tennyson
Blessed are we who regularly visit Green Valley Park and have the opportunity to watch America’s national bird, the American bald eagle, mystify us with all its splendor and mystique.
We are very privileged to welcome our feathered friend as a regular visitor to our south Payson park. And even though this giant raptor is here only during the winter months, usually arriving shortly before Christmas and leaving for cooler temperatures in the early spring, its stay delights us all.
Green Valley Park’s nine-acre, man-made lake seems to provide the ideal feeding spot for this fish-preying bird. Many a day I’ve watched in awe as the eagle drops from the sky to snatch a rainbow trout from the lake that Game and Fish so abundantly stocks from October through May.
For a good portion of the day, though, the carnivorous creature sits perched atop the uppermost branches of a long-dead alligator juniper on the summit of the hill behind our house, resting patiently until its growling stomach once again goads it into plucking an unassuming, surface-basking trout from the lake below.
This winter season, we avid eagle-watchers have noticed that our snow-birding resident has added a member to its family. A “juvenile” eagle, yet to develop its adult plumage, can often be seen perching with its parent and soaring together (and separately) above the park. (We don’t know if the parent is a “mom” or “dad,” as both adult males and females have identical markings.)
Over the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by this American bald eagle that makes Payson its winter home — and now its offspring, as well.
Of course, the American bald eagle really isn’t “bald.” Along with its tail, its head and neck are covered with solid, tiny white feathers.
So why is it that this creature of flight is named a “bald” eagle? It seems that hundreds of years ago the English word for “white” was “balde” and the word piebalde meant mottled with white, so the eagles with white heads were called Balde Eagles. And naturally, to be different, Americans adopted the name Bald Eagles.
Some other interesting facts that I’ve discovered about the American bald eagle are that (unlike many humans) eagles mate for life, its nests are built four to 10 feet wide and so strong that a man could stand inside (probably because the young eagles don’t leave the nest until they are full grown at14 pounds), and adult female bald eagles are slightly larger than their male counterparts.
And did you know that juvenile bald eagles have a mixture of brown and white feathers that keep that mottled appearance until they reach sexual maturity at four to five years? And when fully grown, eagles are able to fly 30-35 miles per hour and soar to heights of 10,000 feet. (I have watched them ride the updrafts until they have risen out of my sight.)
If you’ve never before seen a bald eagle, come on down to Green Valley Park, take a stroll around the lake and keep your eyes peeled. And don’t forget to bring your camera!
This week’s trivia question is: Which of the following statements about the American bald eagle is true? A) Bald eagles have lifting power of about four pounds (one whale of a trout), B) The wing span of a bald eagle is between six feet and seven-and-a-half feet, C) At maturity, the bald eagle has approximately 7,000 features or D) all of the above?
This week, if you’re the fifth caller and have the right answer, you’ll win a CD of the greatest hits of the 1970s-’80s soft-rock group the Eagles, which includes all 13 of their Top-20 hits and five number one hits.
Last week’s music trivia question asked if you could name the title of pianist Floyd Cramer’s breakout hit, which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard chart for four weeks in late 1960. The choices were A) “Last Night,” B) “Last Dance,” C) “Last Date” and D) “Last Kiss.”
The right answer was “Last Date.” (Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” kept Cramer’s hit from advancing to the number one slot.)
Each of last week’s other three choices were also Top-10 hits. “Last Night” by the Mar-Keys was a Top-3 hit in 1961. “Last Dance” by Donna Summer reached number three in 1978. And J. Frank Wilson’s “Last Kiss” topped out at number two in 1964.
Congratulations to last week’s regular caller and multiple-time music trivia winner, Mike Leigh. Mike won two tickets, courtesy of the Tonto Community Concert Association, to this past week’s Legacy of Floyd Cramer concert in the Payson High School Auditorium.
Lastly, new pictures that I’ve added to my web site are from last Friday’s Rim Country Middle School dance. Middle school students sure have a lot of energy!
Have a nice Rim Country week.
Web site: www.djcraiginpayson.com