We Rim Country eagle lovers got a real treat on Halloween eve this year. Cher, the migrating female eagle that first appeared in Payson in the late winter of 2021, returned from her summer voyage to spend the cooler months again in the Rim Country.
After being gone for four months on her migratory journey north, it’s great to see her again fishing for rainbow trout from the park’s big lake and pruning her 7,000 feathers atop her customary perching spot on the tree line above the nearby condos.
But where is Sonny, the love of Cher’s life for the last two months of spring? The two were inseparable since their in-flight courtship ritual over the big lake in March — their razor-sharp claws locked, tumbling head-over-talons from the heavens above. Love, eagle style.
These wild critters can be so darn unpredictable.
Perhaps, out of the blue, we’ll soon see Sonny rejoined with Cher, the two snuggled together on their favorite perch or soaring together through the azure blue skies above.
Or maybe we’ll never see one or either of these majestic birds again, leaving us bemoaning over yet another unsolved tale of the wild.
When I first moved to Payson, not so many years after Green Valley Park was completed, I was soon introduced to Ernie, who I was told was the first migrating bald eagle to make his cooler-weather home in the park. The older anglers would catch their daily limit of trout, then continue fishing until they had another to throw back out into the lake, so they could watch Ernie swoop down and fly off with dinner.
Being a city boy who never saw an eagle within the confines of suburbia, this seemed quite fascinating to me. Apparently, Ernie had gotten so used to being around the anglers that would feed him, that he felt comfortable enough around all humans so much that he would perch for hours atop the willow trees on the lake’s shorelines, just people-watching for hours.
In the winter of 2014, a very young bald eagle appeared at Green Valley Park, with coloration that identified him as less than a year old. It wasn’t long before Ernie took Bernie under his wing and taught him the good fishing life at Green Valley Park. They were fun to watch, as they often vied for trout in the lakes.
It was in the late spring of 2018 that we saw Ernie in Payson, when he began his yearly north migration. We expected to see him return that fall, as he had always returned in September or October of each year. But not that fall. So we just hoped for the best — that maybe he had met a nice lady in Idaho, Alberta, Alaska or wherever his summer trip had taken him.
Thank goodness for us local bird-lovers, Bernie continued to return to Green Valley Park each fall following Ernie’s mysterious departure. He followed in Ernie’s pattern of perching in the willow trees near the lakes and showing off his fishing skills — to the delight of all.
In January 2020, Bernie made his last rainbow catch and has not been seen in the Rim Country since. His acrobatic sky maneuvers and astute fishing skills are sorely missed.
Safe migratory travels to all the bald eagles that have made their winter homes at Green Valley Park. Fly away, fly away!
But please come back.