One of the many benefits of getting out and about in our wild county is, you can take a walk in the same locality but have a different experience each time. Each season in any of our parks and wild lands paints a new color palette, from the new green growth after the rains to the Technicolor birds and blooms that are set upon Lake County’s stage in spring and summer months. I can’t count how many inspiring hikes I’ve taken at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, but I’ve only been privy to sighting the majestic golden eagle a couple of times so far.
Golden eagles have been sighted at not only Anderson Marsh, but at some of our many other parks as well, such as Lakeside County Park, Cache Creek Wildlife Area, and Mendocino National Forest, to name a few. According to Audubon’s website, “The golden eagle is one of the largest and most agile raptors found in North America.” This magnificent bird is tinted brown, with gold-brown feathers on the backs of their necks. The juveniles are usually marked with white on their tails and wings. These gorgeous raptors can grow to 40 inches in length with five-to-seven-foot wingspans! They love to hunt in open areas with natural vegetation; and they typically steer clear of agricultural areas or any developed landscape.
Golden eagles, as well as bald eagles have been protected by the U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act since 1962. Would you believe that golden eagles have been clocked at flying up to 200 miles per hour? It would be awe-inspiring to watch them act out their aerial gymnastics which they perform during mating season, or sometimes when they ‘play.’ Their size and skill allows for them to hunt not only other birds, but wild cats, ground squirrels, rabbits, and even deer!
The threats to golden eagles include wind turbines, pesticides, lead poisoning, and loss of habitat. Audubon California passed legislation necessitating the use of non-lead ammunition for game hunting in 2013 to aid in bird loss due to lead poisoning. This species usually mates for life and breeds from January to August when they produce 1-3 eggs in their neatly constructed nests which are often located in large trees or tucked into cliff-sides. The clutch requires about 50 days to hatch.
Although it was quite shocking to watch as the golden eagle at Anderson Marsh eviscerated a Canada goose for his lunch, my binoculars were glued to my face as he tore feathers from his prey to do what birds have been doing for thousands of years- hunting, feeding, and breeding. The sheer beauty of the marsh’s surroundings and precision of nature as she functions in her grand and mysterious ways adds yet another chapter to life on the land in Lake County.