The Bald Eagles of Beaver Lake
By Alex Menard
This may read like a short story and still seems like a dream to me. In fact, I am relating it just as it happened on one stunningly beautiful fall day in Marble, Colorado. The day was so bright it almost hurt your eyes, and completely quiet, except for the rustle of the leaves and ripples on the water.
Now that most of the leaves have fallen, the noise and activity have fallen too. Nature is returning. It is no coincidence that the first moose sighting I had this season on my daily trips to Beaver Lake occurred on a day when the Forest Service closed the Crystal Road for repairs.
Knowing that our four-legged brothers are creatures of habit just like us, I continued my daily visits to the lake. I arrived at different times each day, hoping to coincide with Mr. Moose’s daily routine.
One mid-afternoon I did not see the moose in his usual grazing spot, but did see a very large white spot on a cottonwood tree overlooking the lake. Everyone in Marble knows that the Bald Eagles have returned not just to hunt; their daily presence means they are nesting here. The establishment of a breeding pair of bald eagles is clear evidence of a healthy ecosystem.
Walking back, I met Steve and Cyndi and mentioned that the eagle was across the lake. Cyndi one upped me, stating that she had seen a pair. Across the lake, I met a couple from Tennessee who had binoculars. We glassed the trees and saw that there were two eagles side-by-side on a branch.
Then, one eagle took off and flew right overhead, flapping its wings at first, then soaring after gaining altitude. He passed directly over us, seeming to size us up. Were any of us people or dogs of a size that could be picked up and carried off?
We sized him up, too. White head and tail, yellow beak and claws, huge. He flew across the narrow valley, landing on a dead tree on top of some cliffs. We saw him break off a branch and fly off with it in his beak. He headed back to the cottonwoods above the lake. Through the binocular lens we saw the other eagle next to a large nest.
I continued my walk and met Adam driving down the road. He was completely covered in white dust, head-to-foot. He told me about his marble carving project up the road and I told him about the eagles. He said that he and Brad had observed the eagles on one particular cottonwood tree.
That tree has one large dead branch projecting 15 feet out over the lake. They had seen the pair of eagles sitting together on the branch. The eagles used a fork at the end of the branch to hold their kill, while both feasted together. Brad and Adam saw different menu items on different occasions including squirrels, marmots, ducks and very large trout. Did you know that eagles used utensils to eat?
Next I met Brad, who lives on the property where the eagles nest. He told me that the eagles have been nesting there for five years, but he did not know exactly where the nest was. I felt fortunate that I had followed the eagle’s flight and had seen the nest, hiding right there in plain sight.
To witness a natural drama like that is surely the goal of every visitor to Marble. Are we doing anyone a favor by managing this area as a staging ground for motorized access to further up the valley? Everyone in a machine will miss what we saw that day. Marble is a wilderness threshold and should be treated that way. Wilderness starts when the machines are quiet.
You can see the eagles from the county road north of the lake or from the path along the west shore. Use binoculars and do not approach any closer. To do so is to trespass on private land and to violate sacred ground.
Icy and dicey
By JM Jesse
Sleet slickened side streets
Icicles on bicycles
Most safe on ice skates