A visit to the Nith River bald eagle nest is always a wonderful experience and although sometimes I come away without a single image there is, more often than not, something that catches my interest.

I always learn something too.

Last week I took a trip to Ayr, parked my car and wandered through the woods with my camera at the ready. From the trail I looked up at the nest and could see the head of one of the eagles presumably sitting on eggs. I continued my approach to the river.

Many times I have heard the distinctive call of pileated woodpeckers in those woods but always at a distance. On this occasion I quickly located one flying between the dead trees right next to the river. I couldn’t believe my luck. Only the narrow river separated us.

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest North American woodpecker. They go after bugs and larvae inside the tree trunks leaving large holes in the wood. This one had a red stripe across its face indicating it was a male. Females have a black one. He settled on a tree trunk and began hammering away at the base with its tough beak. At one point I could see he had a grub in his mouth.

I moved along the river bank to find a better vantage point one that allowed an unobstructed picture. Then I fired off some images. Checking the histogram on the camera I made a wee adjustment in my settings then shot some more.

Then I heard his mate in a nearby tree. At one point they were within a few feet of each other.

Something moved through the grass and I saw an American mink running along a trail next to the river. It stopped to look at me then disappeared into a burrow.

It was then that I took a quick look in the tallest trees in case, while concentrating on the woodpeckers and the mink, I had missed the arrival of the other eagle.  It would not be the first time I have been so distracted.

Quite often they will land on a tree branch and remain for some time. They don’t often announce themselves. When I drew a blank I returned my attention to the mink. Several times it appeared then dipped in the river out of sight.

It was a remarkable afternoon and to my delight I eventually heard the chatter of an eagle approaching. It was likely the male returning with a fish to feed his mate. Without lingering he took off again and flew past me. 

All in all I would say it was a great afternoon one that anyone can experience if they so choose. Putting away that mobile phone and laptop for a couple of hours and getting outdoors is what my family doctor now calls  ‘mindfulness’ and it’s a necessary antidote to our busy lives.

Good luck out there! 




    1. Paul E Gains

      Hi Bernice, This family of mink has been along that stretch of the river for several years now. I am surprised since they scurry about right beneath a bald eagle nest! They are fun to watch!

  1. Pat Bruce

    Another one of your great outing stories going out into woods looking for nature is good for soul and relaxing( We all need that) there is so many more Bald eagle now, we live north of Woodstock on a farm and we see them often. Thanks again so glad I gets your blogs. Just really enjoy reading your stories and your great photos.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Great stuff. There was a green heron along that stretch of river two or three years ago and it would walk along the river’s edge fishing. It didn’t seem to mind the sound of a camera going off. I will have to look for it again! Happy ‘hunting’

    1. Paul E Gains

      thanks Janice. Bald Eagles have certainly been flourishing around Waterloo Region. I know of 5 active nests in the area. In fact, while out today I spotted one eagle chasing off some turkey vultures that had found carrion in a field near Glen Morris. Too far for decent pictures however!

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