Good morning, birders
Yesterday in Sunol we watched a golden eagle, high in the cloudy sky soaring in broad, leisurely circles. At least a dozen rotations and not one wingbeat. Slow, measured, powerful circles.
Suddenly the eagle folded its wings and entire body into a tiny dark origami box with four small corners and stooped in a spectacular angled descent into a canyon.
I've been to falconry trials and watched peregrine falcons exhibit their dramatic stoop - this was every bit as spectacular. Having now researched 'golden eagles stoop', eagles might be less agile than peregrines, but can reach speeds of 150-200 mph and are considered one of the earth's fastest animals in a stoop. The behavior is territorial and also to surprise prey.
In fact, this behavior is immortalized in a famous 6-line poem:
The Eagle by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1851)
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.