Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunny with a chance of ...?

Sunday here was a nice, sunny day. Just like the weatherman predicted, nary a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the low 80's. I had been working in the yard making some cages to protect our plants from deer and was just walking back toward the house. I looked up, as birdwatchers are apt to do, and saw a large but odd-looking bird flying towards the house. It took a second to realize it was a bald eagle. It was diving down towards the top of the house with wings fully spread and talons out.
Now, I feel back about this with it almost being Independence Day here and the Bald Eagle is out national symbol, but eagles aren't the kindest of birds. They enjoy themselves some good carrion and aren't afraid to take something another bird has caught.
And back in the yard, as I'm watching the eagle come in, clearly trying to intimidate someone. That someone was an Osprey. I saw it appear out from behind the house and they both quickly disappear behind some trees as they head down the street.
So I continue on around the house to where my wife is working in the garden to see if she saw any of this. When I walk around the house she is standing out by the street looking up at the house. Thinking something unusual had happen I ask what she is looking for. And here is her side of the story.

I was in front of the house weeding when I was startled by a sound like a thump.  I realized I'd been hearing an osprey calling excitedly but had been too focused on what I was doing to pay attention to it.  So, looking up and seeing the osprey flying away wasn't too much of a surprise, but the eagle right behind it, only maybe 15 or 20 feet above the roof of the house was a pretty cool sight.  Then, a red-tailed hawk rocketed down towards the eagle screaming all the way.  Three different raptors in one sighting, very cool.  But what was the thump?  Bryan hadn't heard it from the backyard but it had sounded really close, like something hitting the house.  I had an inkling of what it might be, but we were both pretty incredulous....  Still, Bryan got out the ladder and I went up on the porch roof to take a look.  Sure enough, there was a foot-long fish in the rain gutter!  If I hadn't seen it happen, I never would have believed it.  Good gracious, what if we hadn't seen it?  How many days of enduring the stink every time we went in and out of the front door would it take before anybody would think to look in the rain gutter for a dead fish!

My field guides to fish did not include a chapter on gutter fish. But some poking around suggested that it was probably Atlantic menhaden. It was commonly used in pre-Colonial times as fertilizer. [Side Note: it is now a major commercial fish used for Omega-3 tablets and fertilizer.] So we buried the fish in our veggie garden. If the raccoons leave it alone, we'll see if the plants in that area grow larger.