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Eagle, raven display rare affinity

A bald eagle and northern raven appear to enjoy each other’s company over a field at the former Sydney Steel coke ovens site, a rare occurrence according to experts. 
STEVEN MCGRATH
A bald eagle and northern raven appear to enjoy each other’s company over a field at the former Sydney Steel coke ovens site, a rare occurrence according to experts. STEVEN MCGRATH

Could it be that the bald eagle and northern raven were truly touched by the Christmas spirit?

Could it be that on a beautiful Sunday morning in Sydney, two arch-rivals mutually agreed to embrace their kindlier sides, to put aside their longstanding differences and together indulge in the joyous occasion of Christmas Eve?

Well, Steven McGrath has photographic evidence that suggests so. The photos he posted on the Nova Scotia Birds Society’s Facebook page are hard to dispute.

Ian McLaren, an emeritus professor of biology at Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Bird Society board member, took a peek and was admittedly taken aback by what he’d witnessed.

“They indeed seem to be an odd couple rather than incidental associates when feeding on a massive food source (e.g. discarded chickens in the Valley),” surmised McLaren.

There they were in an open field, at the former site of the Sydney Steel coke ovens, seeminglyindulging one another’s company for a good 30minutes, recalls McGrath,

an avid bird watcher/photographer.

There were no carcasses to battle over, no commotion whatsoever. After indulging in someplayful head-rubbing the pair took flight, soaring in circles just above McGrath.

“It was bizarre. They did this repeatedly. It was unusual to see them so close together. You often see bald eagles around, flying high above, and you always see crows and ravens harassing them. I’ve never seen them in the same place not fighting.

“It was unusual because it looked like the eagle thought he was a raven. That, or they bothagreed that we’ll be friends one day of the year and it will be Christmas Eve. But it’s especially odd to see an eagle hanging around there doing nothing — if he’s looking for food, it’s going to be high up.”

But there was more to come.

“All of a sudden a flock of geese landed about 150 yards from the eagle and raven. Then they were all huddled together in the field.”

Christmas peace personified.

It served as an especially satisfying moment, given that Mc-Grath took up birdwatching soon after being confronted with a serious health issue last spring. He gave up drinking and decided to get more active. Bird photography/ watching developed into a full-blown passion.

“I absolutely love it, heading out into the wilderness, finding these birds that

I never knew existed: tufted ducks, a month ago a yellow-breasted chat. I’ve been logging my sightings on eBird. My son will often join me, watching them, watching their habits, what they’re up to.”

His Christmas Eve sighting served as icing on the cake.

“Absolutely, it was a great Christmas present. It certainly was a good way to finish the year.”

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