Monday, May 30, 2011

How to Catch an Eagle Without Really Trying

Brown's Peak, AZ

This morning Joe and I drove in to Las Cruces after several weeks of being away. We’ll be heading out again on Tuesday for another month in the great big open, but for now it’s nice to have a little down time to recuperate from the whirlwind of perpetual driving.

The incredible view from Sierra Juarez.
Early in May we headed out to San Diego and met up with a project coordinator for the zoo, as well as another eagle trapper. Together our quorum crossed the border into Mexico and began an 8 day hunt for eagles. We were brought to a very isolated portion of the country, high atop the Sierra Juarez mountains, and began our search. Just to be clear, I use ‘we’ somewhat liberally because during this entire venture I didn’t contribute to the task at hand; tagging along to cool and remote places is simply a perk of hanging around Joe. The first night Joe and I backpacked down to a nearby canyon in order to get a better view of a suspected eagle territory. With us on the bottom and the other trappers up top they were able to detect eagles and decide where it would be most effective to set up trap sites.  The following morning, at 3 am, day one of eagle trapping began.

Holding eagle #2
There were two traps set up, both using bunnies as bait. The idea is that when an eagle swoops down to grab the bunny, the net will snap shut trapping the eagle inside. Despite what it sounds like, it is a harmless operation in which luck plays a large role. On this particular morning Joe (and I) were stationed at an observation point in order to let the trappers know when an eagle was near. Sure enough, around 11 am an eagle was captured. For me, it was the first time I had seen a golden eagle up close and after a little while I got to hold the little dude. After they catch the eagle, it is blindfolded with a specific type of hood and then the biologists “process” it. From what I can tell, that means they count and measure the wings, age it, band it, check the eyes and other health indicators, draw blood, and ultimately fit it with a transmitter that will stay on its back for up to five years. The transmitter collects data over the years, which helps, say, wind farm companies to know if their creations are chopping up eagles.   

Hooded and transmitted.

 While in Mexico we caught one other eagle before heading back to San Diego. Eating seafood and visiting my uncle are two of my favorite things to do in southern California, and before driving up to Las Vegas we were able to successfully tackle both. We also stopped in on some friends who live near Joshua Tree Nat’l Park and had a really good time catching up with them.
Vegas was non-stop from the moment we drove in. Almost immediately we found out that my harp teacher was playing a concerto in the symphony the following night, which meant our plans suddenly changed so we could go see her. It was a great performance, and meeting up with her and the other musicians afterwards was super refreshing.

From the top of La Madre.
Early the next morning we headed out to Red Rock to finish what we started back in November—La Madre mountain. It was a great hike, totally worth the wait for those expansive views. From there we spent the evening with some good friends back in Boulder City before heading out to Arizona for another week of eagle trapping. Unfortunately, the luck from Mexico didn’t follow us, which meant a rather slow week of watching the trap, hoping for an eagle to swoop in.

Yesterday we started our journey back to Las Cruces in order to check on a few things before leaving it again. On the way, we made all the appropriate stops—coffee house in Flagstaff, climbed Brown’s Peak near Lake Roosevelt, the town of Globe for dinner, and finally stopping in fabulous Lordsburg for the night. 

Brown's Peak in the background,
Lake Roosevelt NRA in the foreground.

And finally, to truly finish the trip off with style, we found out today that Joe is going to be published. Don't worry, you'll get a copy when it comes out :)


Carol said...

Sounds like an exhaustive, but fun, adventure. I wish I had your energy!

Ron said...

Way cool, catching holding an eagle. Great adventures!