Good morning and greetings, last day of winter fans. On my morning jaunts along West Cliff Drive, one of the constants is the fly-by action along the coast. I’ve been into the Byrds since the early years of David Crosby and their 60′s psychedelic classic, ‘Eight Miles High.’ In a classic quote by frontman Roger McGuinn to bandmate Gene Clark who refused get on a plane, “If you can’t fly, you can’t be a Byrd.”
So when I saw this story last week written by Donna Jones in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I knew I had to fly with it. Or as the Space Cowboy himself, Steve Miller, said, “I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea, fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.” Of course, this health nut was also “a smoker, a joker and a midnight toker” who spoke of the “pompetous of love,” which has never truly been defined.
So for perhaps the first time since tourists came over the hill from San Jose on horseback, a pair of bald eagles are making plans to call Santa Cruz their home.
Despite the high cost of housing in the county, they are building a large nest near the top of a eucalyptus tree in a grove near Pinto Lake County Park.
Eagles almost disappeared from California due to the toxic effects of DDT, the pesticide that caused egg shell thinning that lead to unsuccessful hatching. According to my DDS, by the time DDT was banned in 1972, which had gotten into their DNA, fewer than 30 nesting pairs remained in the state, which registered as a DNP on my stat sheet.
In 1967, the bald eagle was designated as an endangered species by federal authorities and the Hair Club for Men. California added it to its endangered list in 1971. The state Department of Fish and Game say that bald eagles are sober and recovering, and nesting pairs have been found in 41 of California’s 58 counties. Happy couples have nested in Santa Clara, San Benito and Monterey counties, but none have been known to take up residence in our cold water paradise by the sea.
Despite their growing numbers, the eagles remain on the state’s endangered list, and are federally protected. Word is spreading like wildfire that these eagles have signed a one year lease. When I think about these national treasures, I get a peaceful, easy feeling, and one of these nights, one of these crazy old nights, I may just be out there at Pinto Lake, although I can’t tell you why. That’s just life in the fast lane.
So here are some fun facts about our follicle-deprived friends from the good people at www.baldeagleinfo.com and nationalgeographic.com. Bald eagles live 30-35 years and sit at the top of the food chain, which from my perspective, is the best place to be. They eat mainly lightly sauteed fish, but also ducks, geese, snakes, Hollywood agents, small mammals, rodents, weasels, actors along with having a sweet tooth for road kill consisting of dead and decaying flesh.
LensCrafters reports that eagle’s eyesight is five times sharper than humans. Soaring at 10,000 feet, they can spot a fish or a bargain almost a mile away. They then swoop down at 100 miles an hour, snatch their lunch with their razor sharp talons while holding their prey and tearing the flesh with their beaks, which is the same method I use with Snow Crab Legs. It’s one of the most awesome sights in nature and at all-you-can-eat Chinese sea food buffets.
Bald eagles reach their sexual maturity at around four or five years of age. Unlike 50% of American couples, once paired, eagles remain together until one dies or runs off with the nanny, secretary or a mother from their offspring’s soccer team.
The baldest of eagles became the national symbol in 1782, around the birth of John McCain’s parents. Ben Franklin, who invented bifocals, the odometer and the thighmaster, was against the eagle’s nomination because of their habit of stealing the kills of other animals. About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska, because of the salmon and no state income tax. And that leads us into today’s photo extravaganza.
For our eagle coverage, we are bringing back one of our heavy hitters, photographer Judy Bingman, who traveled up to Haines, Alaska to capture the magnificence of our national symbol. Judy explained that each year, 3,000 to 5,000 eagles gather in the trees above the ice cold and crystal clear Chilkoot River to pick off the salmon as they head upstream to spawn and die, which has always been a dream of mine.
Eagles are a member of the Accipitridae family, which also includes vultures, hawks and turtle doves. So to make sure Judy didn’t get all the photographic attention today, I’ve included a red shouldered hawk I photographed at Antonelli’s Pond on the west side of Santa Cruz.
We then head to Big Sky country, to check out a couple of Artic wolves and a dancing bobcat. These animals had been hand raised in Kalispel, Montana and Judy went there to update them on the effects of global warming.
My friend Judy is a wild woman, and unlike myself, who’s content to shoot a couple of sunrises and watch basketball until my eyes bleed, she’s loves the photographic adventure. This week she is heading north of Fairbanks, Alaska to photograph the wonder of the aurora borealis. Then in June she’s journeying to Iceland to do some landscape shooting and play with the volcano.
And then to top it off, in August, she’s swimming to St. Paul Island, which is off the coast of Alaska in the middle of the Bering Sea to shoot puffins and other sea birds. I really wanted to join Judy on this trip but I decided to instead go to Safeway to photograph muffins and other selected pastries.
To check out Judy”s artistry, go to www.judybingmanphotography.blogspot.com. Or if you’re downtown on the mall in Santa Cruz, head over to Pacific Thai on Pacific Avenue to check out her work. All this from a woman who hummingbirds refer to as the queen of pad see ew.
On to the late night. “Despite only winning the Super Tuesday primary in Georgia, Newt Gingrich vowed to continue his campaign, saying ‘I’m the tortoise. I take it one step at a time. Also, if you roll me onto my back I can never get up.’” –Seth Meyers “This week a Chicken McNugget that resembles President George Washington was auctioned on eBay for over $8,000. Meanwhile, a Chicken McNugget that looks like Mitt Romney was eaten by Newt Gingrich.” –Conan O’Brien
“Stoners just got a powerful new ally in the fight to legalize marijuana — conservative broadcaster Pat Robertson. “Robertson said he never smoked pot and never will, and that just because something is ‘legal’ doesn’t mean we should do it. That’s the argument I always use against pineapple on your pizza.” –Craig Ferguson
“They say gasoline could be $6 a gallon. But the good news is the White House says President Obama is aware of the problem, and will continue to talk about it between fundraisers. President Obama today released his NCAA bracket. He is a huge basketball fan. But privately, White House aides are worried that if he spends so much time on this, it could affect his golf game.” –Jay Leno
“Not a good week for Rush Limbaugh either. His approval rating has dropped 9 percent in the last month to an all-time low of 41 percent. In fact, if this keeps up, the White House said they may have to fish out bin Laden and shoot him all over again.” –Jay Leno “Rush Limbaugh was at one of the games at Dayton, Ohio, tonight. He brought British Prime Minister David Cameron with him. It’s part of a cultural exchange program. They go to a basketball game here, and then in July the prime minister has invited Obama to England to take part in a soccer riot.” –Jimmy Kimmel
So that’s our last blast for the winter season, as according to my Justin Bieber calender, it says that the vernal equinox hits on Tuesday. I hope you caught some of college basketball’s March Madness last week, as it was Lehigh fantastic. We’ll catch you slashing to the hoop and crashing your moped. Aloha, mahalo and later, Monta Ellis fans.