Golden eagle banded and fitted with transmitter at Hawk Ridge

A golden eagle considers a crowd of onlookers at Hawk Ridge on Monday. The eagle, just the 11th ever trapped by banders at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, was banded and fitted with a GPS/satellite transmitter device. (Sam Cook photo)

Monday was on of those days that a person appreciates being a journalist — and an outdoors writer. Mid-morning I received word that Frank Nicoletti, banding director at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, had captured a golden eagle. That was big news in itself, but it became even more significant when I learned that the big raptor would be fitted with a GPS/satellite transmitter early that afternoon by Mark Martell of Audubon Minnesota.

News Tribune photographer Bob King and I hustled up to Hawk Ridge Monday afternoon to document the process of the eagle being fitted with its transmitter and then released at the main overlook at Hawk Ridge.

On a personal note, it is pretty cool to be in the presence of a golden eagle. The bird was unflappable, resting calmly while Martell worked for at least an hour to band and then fit the harness and transmitter to the big bird. Golden eagles are about the same size as bald eagles, which is to say, huge. Their eyes are piercing, their talons serious weapons, their beaks built for tearing apart frozen roadkill.

Here’s the story I put together for the following day’s newspaper, with several of Bob’s photos. You can follow the flight of this golden eagle at the Audubon Minnesota website here. The transmitter records the eagle’s location every hour during the daylight hours, but information is sent back to Martell just once every three days. The eagle’s number is 53.

Martell said the eagle spent the night near Hawk Ridge, then flew to Floodwood and back in the days after his capture, “which I find a bit hard to believe,” he said.

And here are a few other photos I shot over Bob’s shoulder during the afternoon, plus two of Bob’s photos:

Mark Martell of Audubon Minnesota places a band on the eagle’s leg. (Sam Cook photo)

Kristin Hall of Audubon Minnesota holds the golden eagle while Mark Martell sizes the straps that will hold the bird’s transmitter in place. (Sam Cook photo)

A crowd of birders gathered to watch the golden eagle be fitted with its transmitter. (Sam Cook photo)

The transmitter the golden eagle wears weighs less than 3 ounces, Mark Martell said. Its designed to last from five to seven years. (Sam Cook photo)

Frank Nicoletti, banding director at Hawk Ridge, holds the golden eagle he trapped Monday at Hawk Ridge. (Bob King photo)

Mark Martell of Audubon Minnesota releases the golden eagle after it was banded and fitted with a transmitter. (Bob King photo)

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