The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

Learning to Soar

One day last autumn I was with Elizabeth in the living room of the two-legger house. She was making two-legger fur on her sticks and I was hard at work keeping her feet warm. All was as it should be until I felt a shadow in the room. I knew I hadn’t imagined it when Elizabeth dropped her sticks and called Kay. But Kay wasn’t in hearing range….

A few minutes later, while both of us were looking out the wall hole to see if it would come back, a great big brown flapper seemed to drop out of the sky. It wasn’t flapping. Elizabeth said it was soaring. And it was soaring straight into our wall hole!

It was huge. Even if the glass wasn’t there to keep critters out, that flapper would have had trouble getting through without clipping its wing tips. We thought there was going to be a terrible crash.

But the flapper realised just in the nick of time that it couldn’t pass through. Maybe it saw us at the last moment. Sometimes the wall hole has a sort of shine on it or it reflects instead of letting you see through. Little flappers bump into it sometimes by mistake. But I’ve never seen a flapper this big crash into a wall hole!

Elizabeth said it was a baby white headed big black flapper.

White headed big black flapper fishing. Click on the photo to learn more about these raptors.

White headed big black flapper fishing. Click on the photo to learn more about these raptors. Photo from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Facebook page.

I said no. It was brown and way too big for one of those.

She explained that it takes them a few years to grow the black and white feathers that the mature flappers wear. And because they aren’t as good as flying, their big primary feathers are inches longer than those of the adult birds – it gives them more lift, more time to manoeuvre. Which was a good thing for this youngster. We winced as one of his flapper tips smacked the wall hole. But he got away fine.

I think he was a bit shaken up by his experience, though. Elizabeth let me go outside because I was so excited by what we’d witnessed. I saw the big brown flapper fly past Al’s and Joanne’s house and down over the bay to a big old dead jack pine, which he managed to grab with his feet on his third pass. He folded up his wings and sat there for a long time, making a lot of chirping noises.

His parents flew over to see what he was on about. I don’t understand white headed big black flapper talk, but it sounded as if they were trying to get him to come back to their house. It’s in a tree on the island past Siggy’s Island. It sounded like the youngster was saying, “No way! I just nearly killed myself doing that flying thing and I’m not going anywhere that way again! No way!”

Eventually mom and dad flew back to their house. Perhaps they thought that if they ignored him and went home, he’d eventually fly back. The big brown flapper was a stubborn cusser though. He meant what he told them. I know because I listened to him chirping away. He was really loud. And he kept on chirping. All. Night. Long. Every once-in-a-while I heard the parents from the island calling back. I think they were telling him to shut up and go to sleep. If I spoke white headed big black flapper, I’d have been yelling at him, too!

I think in the morning his dad read him the riot act. “Get back home this minute or you’ll never see another fish/deer haunch/goose from me again!” It’d work with me. I just love eating too much. Evidently, it worked for junior, too. The noise eventually stopped, and later in the day I saw the whole family cruising the thermals over the next bay down.

Comments on: "Learning to Soar" (17)

  1. I’m glad he didn’t crash – they are beautiful birds. I didn’t know that their primary feathers are longer when they’re young – is that true for other eagles?

    • I don’t know, Clowie. I’ll ask my scribe to find out from her rehabilitator friend, Lil.

    • Lillian wrote: Hmmmm…will have to get back to you on that. I know the coloring helps the young eagles blend into the trees so the adults are less likely to attack them, and I believe that the long primaries allow them to occupy air space the adults don’t favor (ie in the trees and low to the ground) but my memory fails me on this one, young Stella. I will consult with experts and get back to you.

      • Thank you, that’s all fascinating information. I love watching the eagles here.

      • They fascinate me, too. They used to make me nervous when I was a puppy, though, I must admit. I think this is something we share through our Pyrenean Mountain Dog heritage, Clowie. Most other dogs don’t go eagle watching!

  2. Great post. Glad her got away fine. Phew. We have a huge wall hole covered with glass at our house that we have to hang ribbons from to keep feathery friends from crashing in to. We had one not nice mishap and had to take an injured friend to our local raptor center to help, thankfully they could. I stimulated a few gray cells here today. Thanks!

    • Hello, Paulette! Thank you for your kind words. I don’t know what we’d have done if that flapper had crashed. We know a rehabilitator that works with raptors here and she might’ve helped us. We just got new glass put in the wall hole – it’s special triple pane to handle our climate! Can you imagine the mess?

  3. I’d rather not, lol, but I sure do get your point! Howdy back to you. Hugs,Paulette & gang

  4. haha I love how you took this funny little observation,, and made it into almost a short story in itself…one that I would read! 🙂 Cute

  5. You are so so lucky that you got to see that!

  6. I’m so glad the big flapper didn’t bang against your wall hole. It might have done considerable damage to himself and the wall hole glass. They are quite impressive, even for a predator like me! I have great respect for them, especially considering how much bigger they are than me! 🙂

    I’ve seen many small flappers bang against the wall hole glass, sometimes leaving small grey feathers on it, but never anything as big as the one you saw. I have actually seen the big black flappers drive the small ones straight at the house! I scream at those big black flappers when they sit up in the trees and taunt me! Glad your big brown flapper found his way home safely. 🙂

    – Salem

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