Notes From Hunter Creek 2.11.2016

Eagles and Turkey Vulture

Hey, I am going out on a limb, and contrary to most experts, I am predicting an early spring.  That seems crazy because as I am writing this column the snow flurries are blowing through Hunter Valley at around 40 miles per hour, and the temp is maybe 30 degrees.

But, here are the reasons for my prediction:  1) the redbud trees are already trying to bud out; 2) recently there have been more and more turkey vultures soaring over the valley; and finally no. 3) I have a good size flock of robins that frequent an area between my front yard and a field bordering Hunter Creek.  All these occurrences are happening 2-3 weeks earlier than usual.  Let’s hope anyway.

Well, in mid-January, Missouri’s eagle days have come and gone. Once uncommon in the Ozarks, that is no longer the case.   Since DDT was outlawed around 1970 and other conservation measures are enforced, our great national bird is now observed in practically every state of the Union.

Of course in the spring, the bald eagle will migrate to Canada or Alaska. They usually show up in the Ozarks sometime in early October.

These magnificent birds of prey mate for life and commonly live for an approximate quarter-century in the wild.

There is one pair that shows up on Hunter Creek every fall. I am certain this pair frequently visits my neighbors –– Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery and S&H Fish Farm –– as both are located upriver, and both can provide a trout or catfish meal.

Remember, it’s unlawful to possess any part of an eagle, even a feather. If you want to observe a large concentration of eagles in the mid-west, I might suggest three places: 1) the lower Buffalo River (Leatherneck Wilderness Area) right above where it empties into the White River in Northern Arkansas; 2) the Mississippi River above the locks near or below Hannibal, Mo.; and 3) Swan Lake Refuge, near the Missouri River, in NW Missouri.

And if you ever get the travel bug, try the Chilkat State Park and Wildlife Refuge in the northern Alaska panhandle near Haines, Alaska.  Here you will allegedly see the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles in late August and September. Hundreds of bald white heads can be seen perched in the timber along the river banks, waiting to pounce down and claim their very own salmon carcass, which has just mated, bred and died, and is floating downstream with the current.

Two common observations about eagles ––

Many people will see an immature bald eagle and mistake it for a golden eagle.  It takes a few years until juvenile birds attain their white badges.  Golden eagles are rarely seen in the Ozarks.

Another common fault is the inability to distinguish in flight, a bald eagle from a turkey vulture, another actually magnificent bird. All of these birds are protected by the National Regulatory Migratory Bird Act.

Besides the lack of white coloring on the head and tail, vultures with split wing feathers usually glide on air currents above bluffs, in large member groups. In the Ozarks, seldom, if ever, will you see an eagle soar with more than its mate, and usually alone.

Turkey vultures do migrate, but not near as far.  Most, but not all, will seek warmer weather in southern Arkansas in the winter, or any place where there are reliable sources of food and shelter.  And, they usually depart when the eagles arrive, and return in March when the eagles depart.

When you see a flock of vultures bluff-gliding in early March, you know spring is just around the corner.

Have you ever crept up on a vulture?  On a mountain’s rocky crag, above Hunter Creek about 25 years ago, while spring turkey hunting, I surprised one. The large bird flew right at me missing me by a couple of feet, and needless to say, it scared me right out of my hunting boots.  I could even smell it as it flew nearby.

And, of course, vultures act as God’s great cleaning agent, disposing of any and all deceased critters.  You will commonly see vultures sitting with their wings spread to their 66-inch wingspan “airing out” so to speak.  This accomplishes two tasks.  The wind cleans dead debris off of the wing feathers, and they can soak up sunlight and warmth for their bodies prior to nightfall.

Note:  There are many Court decisions which interpret the first 10 Amendments (Bill of Rights). And, there are probably more decisions affecting 4th Amendment Prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures than any other item in the Constitution, other than maybe the “Commerce Clause” of the Constitution.

In fact, most lawyers can recite the general rule, and then the general exception to the rule, and then they will tell you the facts of each specific case will actually dictate which exception may or may not then apply, as for an unlawful search and seizure case.

For example, there is the exception of dismissing the need for a warrant in emergency conditions. Say a fire, for instance.

And, there is the “good faith” exception wherein police thought that they had a lawful warrant for a search but later discover the legal description of the real property to be searched, as stated, was slightly incorrect.

And, then in 1968, the Supreme Court was faced with the situation where a downtown beat patrolman in Cleveland, Ohio decided to stop a couple of suspicions men that appeared to be “casing” a store for a robbery.  Upon a search, one of the suspects was discovered to be carrying a concealed handgun and was later charged with carrying a concealed and dangerous weapon.

In the case, the Court announced a major exception to the “exclusionary rule” of the 4th Amendment. In the Terry v Ohio case, the Supreme Court stated this situation was not really a search, but a request for identification from suspicions persons, and a quick, non-intrusive “pat-down” to ensure the safety of the officer in detecting that the suspect had no weapon secreted on him. There was a vigorous and stinging dissent written by Justice Douglas as to the majority opinion authored by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren.

Thus –– the exception of a “stop and frisk” rule was enunciated by the Court.

I have often wondered what the founding fathers would think of a much later Supreme Court ruling that finds random stops along highways and byways, and resulting arrests and seizures not based on probable cause, are lawful.

Imagine, George Washington and his wife undertaking a three-day stagecoach journey from Boston to Philadelphia, in the newly established USA, and the stagecoach being stopped randomly a couple of times a day.  I doubt if any such rule would have survived.

Now, get up and go enjoy the beautiful Ozark Outdoors.