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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Roadkill clean-up

True story...............which for my heavily-populated suburban town in NJ is so exceptional, it is almost freakish! (Rural readers might very well shrug with a "so what? Happens here all the time.") So last week I am returning from Home Depot with my neighbor, Wally (Marta's husband from past stories here) with a plywood and sheetrock loaded trailer in tow. Wally had asked me if I'd help him out since he needed these items and I've done this with him before. To be extra safe, I diverted to a side street that is tree lined on both sides for a bit, before it opens back up to typical Central Jersey, house-lined suburbia.

We were just into the wooded stretch when a huge bird swoops down in front of my car and flies just about a yard above the pavement in the center of the road. Its white head and tail are dead giveaways as to what it is: an American Bald Eagle.....full-grown. I got very excited but curious as to why this guy would fly so low in harm's way of my still-moving car, but in seconds I got my answer. Just a bit ahead a dead squirrel nearly straddled the center dividing line, and Mr. Eagle dips ever so slightly and scoops him up. 

Imagine seeing this from behind while driving!

With woods on both sides, he had to continue straight up the road, slowly gaining altitude with each magnificent flap. So here we are driving mere yards behind this iconic raptor like a bizarre parade, for several seconds, until he gained enough height to veer off once out of the wooded area. It happened too fast to get a shot, but long enough to be more than a mere dive and dash. 

As a "bird person" (along with Rosa who is even more vigilant than me) this was a stunning event. I recall all too well growing up through the 60's and 70's just how rare birds of prey were in NJ. No one EVER saw an eagle, let alone an endangered Bald Eagle! DDT wasn't banned until 1972, and it was a leading cause in the depletion of these raptor populations causing eggshells so fragile that the birds cracked their own eggs just by keeping them warm. But now, with the pesticide gone, and laws to protect, and time......these guys are back in a big way.

I recall when the Army Corps of Engineers began constructing osprey stands around National and State parks. They too are easily seen now. Even my own suburban backyard sees its share of hawks, and yes.....Rosa swears she saw bald eagles very high up a year or so ago. Turkey vultures circle nearly everywhere now as well. Any drive up a mall-packed highway affords a view of these large scavengers scoping out roadkill.

NYC is now an established range for Peregrine Falcons who discovered over time that if they pretended skyscrapers were cliffs, the city provided an abundance of pigeon and rodent dinners to be easily had. I recall that in 1989 or so, I was in a loft in NYC for a business convention and the folks there were proudly bragging about their resident falcon, which we saw on their ledge. This was back when this first started happening. It was a rare but increasingly-familiar tale, until now when those falcons are everywhere.

A native New Yorker.

To me this says that no matter how badly we screw something up, if we stop and reverse course before it's truly too late, nature WILL rebound. We just need to give it a fighting chance.

And in conclusion, though it's not about birds, I would like to make a recommendation on a Netflix documentary currently causing a stir: "Seaspiracy". I would recommend watching it and keeping an open mind to the veracity of most claims and some skepticism over some of the more extreme ones. (What I did was watch it, and then read a few fact-check articles, just for balance, also keeping in mind WHO was writing the fact-checks and whether they were truly impartial. But hey, a viewer should do this with anything.)


  1. THis was interesting to read as i live in a place where the only 'wildlife' I see are too-fat pigeons and the resident koel. Noisy fucker has taken up residence in the tree right outside my bedroom window. And shrews. I see shrews.

    1. Interesting. Wildlife does depend a lot on one's location.

  2. Turkey Vultures are so helpful. They can smell a gas leak, told by the gas companies, when they see flying over a spot there is a gas line will check it out and sure enough it is a leak. The deal with the dead, eating all. If you witness them in a Raptor center like I have, they are very comical, like to play games with those who clean their enclosure, must have two people, one to watch them, the other to clean. I have seen them untie shoes, poke at workers, been told it is just a fun game but also must be aware of them, you could lose a finger, pecks to the legs, they are strong. Jack

    1. That was very interesting and informative, Jack! Thanks. What a great (and pertinent) comment.

  3. I experienced much the same in our more rural area. Driving down the road with an eagle flying in front of me in the clear corridor between trees. We see them quite frequently here. I thought I was going to hit one with the mast of my sailboat while on the Hudson River.
    Great to see that reversing course here was not too late to save them.

    1. I was afraid others might see this as something far less exceptional than I did. As I stated to Fondles, location plays a key role. You must be further west than me. But trust me, for where I live? This was very rare.

      Check out the documentary too!