Birding down at Vernon Dam on the Connecticut River this morning, I noticed what looked like a big black phalarope swimming around in on of the ice-free pools. On putting the scope on it I realized that it was a coot with its neck fully extended upward and swimming in tight circles. Looked very agitated. I realized why when one of the local adult bald eagles rocketed into the field of view, dropped its talons and made a pass at the coot, which immediately dived in a gout of water. The eagle circled back around and begun hovering like some giant kestrel above the spot where the coot dived. After about 20 seconds the coot surfaced and the eagle dived on it. The coot then dived again to evade a surprise demise and the eagle began its hovering again. This happened about 4 times over the course of a couple of minutes. At no time was the coot able to spend any more than a second or so on the surface and, my guess, was unable to replenish its oxygen supply. Eventually, the coot was barely able to get under the surface at which time the eagle splashed down into the water where the coot had dived. The eagle lay on the water surface with its wings outstretched for buoyancy for about 30 seconds then took off, at which time I saw that it was holding in its talons the struggling coot. The eagle carried the coot (which was stretching its neck out and peering around and kicking its legs) to a half-submerged log where the eagle began to eat its prey alive. Nature red in tooth and claw?
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