An Adult Bald Eagle In My Yard Yesterday!

Sometimes it pays to answer your phone, even when it awakens you from a much-needed nap.

Yesterday after spending hours on Antelope Island in the morning looking for birds and two afternoon trips down to the Jordan River to look for “my” kingfisher and getting bird-skunked on each occasion I was feeling pretty grumpy so I decided to take a nap in an effort to improve my disposition. I had just drifted off when the phone rang. Stumbling to the phone I realized it was the same time of day I typically get robocalls trying to sell me “vehicle maintenance packages” so by the time I answered I was wishing I’d just ignored it. I was downright grouchy when I picked up.

But it turns out it was my good friend and neighbor Mike Welch and almost the first words out of his mouth were “There’s an eagle in your tree!”. Mike had been working in his front yard stringing Christmas lights and saw it fly in and land in my huge elm tree in my side yard (yes, the same tree that nearly destroyed my roof last winter).


1/640, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I grabbed my gear, including tripod, and walked across the street to get a better angle on the eagle and when I looked up it was still there high above my house. By the time I got my lens on the bird it only gave me about five seconds for a few quick shots (and no time to adjust camera settings or check exposure)…



1/500, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

before it took off. The lighting was poor and the setting cluttered but I care less about the images than I do about just knowing there’s a Bald Eagle around in the middle of the city and it likes my tree!

There’s been an adult Bald Eagle that has occasionally visited my tree in January of many recent winters (with the exception of last winter) so this visit was very early and highly unexpected. My tree is the tallest in the entire neighborhood and I think it feels safe way up there. I’m not sure it’s the same eagle each year but I suspect it is. The Jordan River Parkway is nearby and this bird may like to hang around using my tree as a relatively safe refuge between fishing forays down at the parkway.

Thanks for the heads up, Mike. You have permission to interrupt my afternoon nap any old time!




43 comments to An Adult Bald Eagle In My Yard Yesterday!

  • Laura Culley

    What a cool neighbor you have! Mine, thus far, are a little oblivious unless it’s a horse 🙂 Just goes to show that you never know when it’s safe to be grumpy…HEHEHE!
    I think most people would be shocked to know just how many wild folks live in their neighborhood! Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve been able to introduce the neighbors to their wild neighbors and once they know, they tend to be a lot more aware on a lot of levels. I like that. My life is complete!!

    • Laura, “Oblivious” beats the heck out of many of the options when it comes to neighbors…

      • Laura Culley

        You’re absolutely right, Ron. I’ve been very lucky to have only had one butthead neighbor in the many places I’ve lived. I seem to have landed in tall cotton this time, too. While they’re not real bird savvy (YET…LOL!), the neighbors here look after each other and have run to help when needed. They’re not using poisons, which is a big deal to me given that when mice come into the garage, my birds get to eat them, and they’re kind to animals. I’m working on the bird savvy part. It’s what I do and they’re obviously educable! 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    I had to laugh at this. I hate all the robocalls we get, especially when trying to nap. I’m glad you left your elm tree in place and that you have a nice neighbor who knows to alert you to very important events. Bald Eagles are the kind of bird that can make your day, especially when they are in your back yard.

  • Nap shmap. An eagle would have me out the door in a heart-beat. What wonderful neighbourss you have (both Mike and the temporary visitor).
    And your words triggered some Antarctic memories for me. I was ‘xausted’ and had retired for a nap. Looking out the port-hole as we passed an iceberg I saw penguins laboriously climbing to the top and sliding down the sides to the sea. I am (almost) certain that I heard them saying wheee as their slides built up speed. Once they reached the water they started the climb again. And my nap was forgotten. And my face hurt as I smiled broadly.

  • Shirley

    How appropriate that the Bald Eagle came to visit in your Elm tree as it was just three days ago that you put up the post of “Aging Bald Eagles” which I have to thank you for and even though there are branches etc. in your two shots today, I have to say, “Magnificent”, what would we do without your Blog? I look forward to your posts daily. Now that the Osprey are long gone there are a pair of Bald Eagles that sit on two power poles near an Osprey nest about 10 minutes away from Nelson. I noticed one still has a small dark area on it’s upper bill and I remember that one from last winter still had a dark area on the same side of it’s upper bill so maybe the same Bald Eagle. Yesterday in the same area all I managed to get pictures of were three American Wigeons so not totally skunked.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Wow!! Lucky you. Very nice photo, even with the busy background. I have had Red Tails, Sharp shinned and Cooper’s hawks in my backyard in a very populated Massachusetts city – along with plenty of Eastern Coyotes, Red foxes, Possums, Raccoons, Turkeys and many kind of birds.. We do have a lot of parkland around though.

  • Jean Haley

    What a treat. Great shots!!

  • James Marsh

    Great images…but the message your surprise visitor sent is even greater. It has been my experience that those of us interested in and extra attentive to wildlife, to habitat preservation/conservation issues and to other urgent environmental concerns tend to be–in our rush to condemn loss of habitat and to rail against the environmentally less responsible among us–lulled into overlooking visitors to our own backyards and the potential they represent. Though I’ve not been skilled enough to get the kinds of images you apologize for (!) of this eagle in your tree I have seen in my own–very urban, very small (~16′ x 40′)–backyard Merlins, Red Tailed Hawks, and Red-Shouldered Hawks on a regular basis. That I have maintained bird feeders in that space for many years I know accounts for some of this activity having once personally witnessed a Merlin sweep into the yard, pick off a small bird near a feeder and proceed to a nearby power pole to consume it. I don’t know if their Backyard Habitat Certification Program still exists but the National Wildlife Federation not long ago offered free assistance aimed at improving home yards as wildlife habitat. The idea being that if enough urban/suburban yards looked a little more like native habitat some of the native environment lost to development would effectively be re-claimed. A side benefit would be the establishment of healthier wildlife corridors through urban settings. NWF provided climate zone consistent planting and landscaping suggestions to property owners who wanted to make their yard spaces–urban or otherwise–more attractive to wildlife. Once work was done the property owner could request that the organization send a representative to look it over and certify the property. Obviously your tree qualifies; no need for paperwork. But what might happen if more prospective home buyers were to start asking: “Hey, does this property have NWF Backyard Habitat certification?” My bet is more eagles in more backyards.
    Wonderful images…as are all on your site. Thanks for sharing your skills, dedication and passion.

    • Some interesting thoughts, James. And if I’d heard about that NWF backyard program I’ve forgotten about it. Sounds like a very good idea to me. Thank you for the very kind words.

      • The NWF Backyard Certification (and Schoolyard and even, I believe, whole city certification) programs are still alive and well. Check out I had our property certified over 20 years ago. No one came to inspect but there was a detailed questionnaire I filled out. And we have a sign indicating we are certified. They ask about native plants that produce berries, seeds, or nuts; water features; can’t remember what else. We encourage our visitors to go for it for all those reasons James mentions.

        • Thanks for the info and the link, Louise.

        • Laura Culley

          Thanks for the link Louise! New house, I’m in charge and I need to bring wildlife here. Can’t wait to make it happen, but it will be a bit of a while unless I win the lottery! Gotta remember to buy the tickets, though!! 🙂

  • Betty Sturdevant

    I am always amazed these things happen in the city. I realize a lot of the cities in the country would only call this place a large town but to me it is not where you would naturally see so much wildlife. Love the picture and glad you answered your phone. Great shooting.

  • April Olson

    When you purchased the house did you tell the realtor one stipulation was rare and unusual bird life be included in the landscaping? Gee, Bald Eagles Osprey and Herons!

  • Nice images of the welcome visitor! About ten years ago we had a pair of Bald Eagles mating on a house just across the lake from us– a one-off as we never since had one visit our back yard. We did find their nest, the subject of my blog this week.

  • Dick Harlow

    Now that is really neat! A Bald Eagle in the tree, that did damage to your house, and it is in your backyard! I guess the tree can be forgiven for last years events!
    Great pics of the eagle! In my mind that is pure heaven to have images of the eagle! Nicely done with great thanks to Mike.

  • Patty Chadwick

    WOW! A Bald Eagle in your own back yard!!! How lucky can you get !!! These are great images….glad you have such a tall tree and such a good neighbor!! Now let’s hope for a Golden….

    • Wow, a Golden Eagle in my tree – that would truly be something. I’ve had Balds, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Blue Herons (gallons of heron poop on my deck isn’t pretty…) and even an Osprey in that tree but a Golden would REALLY get my attention!

  • Marty K

    This. Is. So. COOL!!!!! A bald eagle in your own yard. Wow! Please thank Mike for us as well. I’d totally accept that kind of “nappus interruptus” call.

    Now for the big question: did you go back to sleep after this encounter? Enquiring minds, and all that. 😉

    • Nope, no sleep after that, Marty. Too exciting. So I made a third trip down to the river to look for the kingfisher and was skunked again! This eagle saved my entire day.

      • Marty K

        I’m with you there! I don’t think I’d be able to sleep for some time! 🙂

        Sorry your kingfisher is hiding. The little snot — doesn’t he know you have a blog? 😉

  • I just realized WHY ( beyond the beauty of your images ) that I so enjoy beginning the day with your blog : the totality , including the comments from your “club”, are the essence of a real-life
    “thanksgiving”—-to pay real attention to the many wonders ( including its creatures ) of our earth, and to truly appreciate them in their loveliness and complexity is the very heart of gratitude–
    the best way I can think of to salute the dawn !

  • Cindy

    What an outstanding gift of nature for that eagle to chose your tree even if only for a short while. On Thanksgiving morning my sister, Mom and I set out on a country road for church. The trip was going to take us past a very large wetland nature preserve and I remarked if we’ll see any eagles. We are in Fulton County in central Illinois. As soon as those words came out of my mouth, my sister said what about the one flying down the center of the road ahead of us. Sure enough there was an adult eagle almost at treetop level just ahead of us. It crossed over and we got a great view of its white head and tail. Driving through the nature preserve we observed another adult and 2 juveniles. On the return trip we counted 3 adults and 4 juveniles. The morning was clear, the sky very blue and the sun made those white heads and tails sparkle like diamonds. It was a gift we will long remember.

  • Oh so very awesome. They are impressive.

  • Judy Gusick

    Cool! 🙂 Definitely worth getting roused from a nap for particularly after getting bird skunked earlier in the day! First shot is gorgeous and like the 2nd even with the clutter just knowing it was so close……… We have caller ID and many calls don’t get answered – if they don’t leave a message……:)
    Mike is certainly a GREAT friend and neighbor…….

    • Judy, Cluttered as it is I was just lucky in that second shot that the shutter fired when we could see the head and eye. All the other takeoff shots were blurry, the head was hidden or I clipped major parts of the bird.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wow! Lucky this majestic bird hung around long enough to get these wonderful shots! That close, a chance of a lifetime and you certainly made the most of it.


  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, what a lucky phone call!! I will hopefully be the first reply to your blog because I can’t sleep and was delighted to see your message appear on my screen!!

    What a beautiful bird. It is interesting that you posted notes about the bald eagle just the other day….and here it is. I’ll have to visit the Jordan River one of these days. BTW, you have a great neighbor to alert you to these wonderful things.

    Thank you, Ron

    • Mike’s been a wonderful neighbor for decades, Alice. I’m sure glad it was him and that I answered my phone. Typically I turn my ringer down when I’m napping…