Bald Eagles in Framingham!

First of all, I want to introduce the amazing photographer that captured the photos in this post and was generous enough to let me display them. His name is Terry, and his collection can be seen here. I guarantee you will be blown away when you see what he can do with a camera! Thank you, Terry.

Soaring Bald Eagle 01 matte, originally uploaded by vidterry.
I have confirmed that it was a Bald Eagle I saw over route 9 last Thursday. Four factors convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt:
First, I had a second sighting.
Second, I had three Framingham residents report seeing a Bald Eagle in the same area recently.
Third, someone very familiar with Bald Eagles reported a DEFINITE sighting over the Mass Pike in Framingham on Sunday (reported via twitter).
Fourth, and most convincing, was confirmation from MassWildlife biologist Tom French that at least one Bald Eagle is known to be living in or around the Framingham reservoirs, and there have been frequent confirmed sighting there recently. Mr. French was certain that the bird I described to him (5 to 6 foot wingspan, white head, wings held flat when soaring, able to do barrel rolls and tumble out of the sky only to save himself at the last second) HAD TO BE A BALD EAGLE

Good Fishing, originally uploaded by vidterry.

Friday April 10
My second sighting was much more "up close and personal"than the first. The first clue to his presence was when something blocked out the sun for a few seconds - long enough to know it was big. I saw something GIANT circling overhead and beginning a descent. He "banked" east at the aqueduct, and I lost sight of him for a second. Thinking he might have landed, I grabbed the camera and ran after him. I tried not to make any noise that would startle him , but being stealthy has never been one of my strong points. I was crashing through leaves and trees with all the subtlety and silence of a wounded water buffalo.
At the edge of the forest, I saw him soaring directly over the aqueduct. He was fifty feet away from me, and he was flying low, right under the tree line at most. My instinctual reaction to the sheer, unimaginable size of the bird was to "hit the deck" or run away. It was scary! The bird looked like a prehistoric predator. His wingspan was at least six feet across, maybe more. He was close enough for me to see that his wings were absolutely flat as he soared . I could also see the fingers at the end of the wings, and I once again noted the "squareness" of his wings; so rectangular that I was reminded of a board of wood.
His head was white, and his body was dark, but I was surprised to see that there were light speckles on his belly and on the leading edge of the wings. The markings were similar to those on the bird pictured above. This is evidently an indication that the bird is a young adult (age 5) or even a "pre-adult" (age 4). The juvenile plumage is not completely gone until the bird is at least five years old.

019 Homeward Bound, No Worries.., originally uploaded by vidterry.

Flying sideways across the sky was probably NOT intentional. The eagle was blown across the sky by a gust of wind, and he simply made no attempt to "face front." Standing up in the air and flapping hard, on the other hand, is the normal and necessary reaction to suddenly losing a gust of wind or thermal current. The bird pictured above is doing the same kind of flapping that I saw over rte 9.

Barrel rolls and tumbling from the sky are both typical courtship behaviors for Bald Eagles. MassWildlife biologist Tom French said it is a bit late for courtship, and there was only one bird, so there was no need for a courtship ritual. However, Bald Eagles have both these behaviors in their repertoire, and might use them if a gust of wind knocked them off balance or something

I am very happy to have solved this mystery and confirmed my sighting of a Bald Eagle. Everyone who insisted I had really seen a Turkey Vulture had statistics on their side, but they hadn't seen what I saw. The bird I saw was an acrobat! It was spinning and diving and doing amazing maneuvers that I've never, ever seen. The Turkey Vultures that I've seen aren't that athletic, and why should they be?. They eat carrion. They don't hunt. It was not an Osprey, either. It didn't look like an Osprey or fly like one, and I know and like Ospreys.

I won't ever tell anyone how many hours I spent staring at the sky with camera in hand so I could prove I had indeed seen a Bald Eagle in Framingham. That was a stupid approach. I am a horrible photographer. Even if i had a stuffed eagle as a model, I would need to take 100 pictures to capture a single usable image. I could never photograph a moving eagle soaring over my head at 90 mph.

As it turns out, it wasn't necessary to take a picture. A lot of people know there are Bald Eagles in Framingham, and they know you can sometimes see a Bald Eagle flying over Route 9 or the Mass Pike. If you look for one long enough, you'll see one. I did.

How can anyone deny that this is the coolest place to live, right?

MassWildlife suspect there is a nesting pair of Bald Eagles somewhere on one of the reservoirs. (The fact that I saw only one Bald Eagle would fit with the theory that there is an active nest, since the female Bald Eagle would be sitting on the eggs right now). If there is a nest, it is VERY BIG and located high up in a White Pine tree. The Pine boughs offer good camouflage for Bald Eagle's nests. If everything goes well, the chicks will hatch in early May. After that, you will see the male AND female Bald Eagles out hunting in order to keep up with the demands of their hungry chicks.

THIS LINK will take you to a live video feed of a Bald Eagle's nest full of hungry (or sleepy)fledgelings. It is amazing.


  1. That's so cool! I had wondered about eagles in Framingham recently as I've seen a lot of large hawk-type activity, but I know nothing about wild birds. Yay for our town! How lucky we are.

  2. We ARE lucky! I don't think there is anywhere in this state that has all the amenities AND wildlife we have in Framingham. I love it!!

  3. Though we haven't actually seen the nest, my wife suspects that it is on the north side of Reservoir #1. We live on Gryzboska Circle and she has seen an eagle frequent one of the very tall trees just north of our neighbor's house.

  4. Thanks PMc! Great tip! It fits with all my sightings, too. I had been concentrating on the Foss and Sudbury Reservoirs with no luck at all. Thanks again!

    PS: Watch for an upcoming post about a place close to your neighborhood!


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