This past week I made the trek to Boothbay Harbor to sea the rare Steller’s Sea Eagle. Traveling from Cape Ann to Boothbay, you need a chunk of time, of which I am in short supply, but Thursday on a whim I jumped out of bed and decided it was now or never.
The drive took about 3.5 hours, including a brief stop at St. Joe’s Coffee shop in York for some of their sublime chocolate dipped bennies (beignets). Despite overcast skies and an occasional snow squall, the rugged beauty of the Maine coastline was arrestingly beautiful. Towering pine forests meet rocky shores, along with a dusting of snow covering the ground and the frost-glazed boulders made for a very enjoyable drive.
I drove directly to the Maine State Aquarium (closed for the season), where there is ample parking. Shortly after arriving, the Aquarium was flooded with a troop of avid nature lovers having just come from a resort several miles down the road where they had seen the bird fly in the direction of the Aquarium. About half an hour later, the Steller’s Sea Eagle flew directly overhead, to the opposite side of the harbor from where we were standing, to the Factory Cove area. She/he stayed perched atop one of the tallest pines along the tree line for the remainder of the morning, barely moving. She appeared relatively unfazed by the murder of Crows that harassed her in spirts of activity throughout the morning.
The SSE was situated roughly one to two miles away, which is much too far for my camera to get a good photo. It would have been so interesting to see her up close, to get a better idea of her enormity, but it was wonderful fun to witness all the folks that were there also enjoying a chance to catch a glimpse of this rare phenomenon. The onlookers ranged in age from from toddler to the oldest grannies and I was delighted to see tons of teenagers and college students there as well. There were perhaps 60 people or so at any given time and twice that many coming and going. No one drove to the other side of the harbor to flush her out and rest assured, the crowd of onlookers was so very far away from her location, we weren’t in any way compromising her ability to hunt and to rest. We saw a number of Long-tailed Ducks and Loons and I imagine Boothbay Harbor is providing plentiful ducks and seabirds for a hungry eagle.
Unfortunately the heater had stopped functioning in my car on the drive to Boothbay so I departed early afternoon. The Eagle was still in the exact same spot when I left the Aquarium.
A note about the Steller’s Sea-Eagle – By weight, the Steller’s Sea Eagle is the largest eagle in the world. SSEagles live in coastal northeastern Asia and breed on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the coastal area around the Sea of Okhotsk, the lower reaches of the Amur River and on northern Sakhalin and the Shantar Islands, Russia. The majority of birds winter south of their breeding range, in the southern Kuril Islands, Russia and Hokkaidō, Japan. Steller’s Sea Eagles prey on fish and waterbirds, including seagulls. See the video below to learn more about “The Story of America’s Rarest Eagle.” Link here to read Maine Audubon’s latest updates.