Eagles In the Air

June 8, 2011

Blad eagle flying. ©iStockphoto.com/Frank Leung Birdimages Photography

My eagles are nesting. They’re not exactly “my” eagles, but they nest just down the beach from my house and I feel very protective and proprietary towards them.

I don’t know how long my eagles have been nesting in this location because they came with the house. They’ve been cruising my beach, hovering over my driveway, and perching atop 100-foot pines on my property as long as I’ve lived here. They’re part of my daily landscape.

My first encounter with the pair occurred while I was kayaking – and it was a heart-stopping experience.

Lake Superior is beautiful and capricious. Even under the best weather conditions, you still pay attention to what you’re doing. Because when you’re a mere human, bobbing in a small kayak, on the largest, deepest, coldest, freshwater lake in the western hemisphere … well, things can happen in a nanosecond. This is the lake that took down the Edmund Fitzgerald; sinking a kayak is no challenge at all.

So while it was a gorgeous day, I can be forgiven for not looking above or behind me. I had enough to keep me occupied, what with waves and a rocky shoreline.

And that’s when I noticed the adult bald eagle sitting in a tree alongside the shoreline. I paused in my paddling to look. I thought it was really cool that an eagle was just sitting there, so clearly visible. And that’s when its mate showed up. It came from behind like an F-16 fighter jet, roaring past within three feet of my left shoulder.

It scared the freakin’ begeezus out of me.

I ducked (nearly impossible to do in the cockpit of a sea kayak, with a spray skirt and life vest on) and held my paddle over my head. Of course, by that time the eagle had executed a sharp left and was fifteen feet above me and thirty feet away – a reflection of its speed, not my reaction time. Trust me, an F-16 roars over your shoulder, you react instantly.

It swooped away, wings beating with large powerful flaps, and landed on a branch next to its mate. As I caught my breath and recovered from imminent cardiac arrest, the two of them ruffled their feathers and stared at me.

And that’s how we met.

Apparently, they accepted me as a new addition to the landscape because they’ve never dive-bombed me again. They let me know they owned the beach, and trusted me to behave accordingly. And I have.

My pair doesn’t seem to migrate. Some eagles don’t, especially if they’ve got open water and can still fish. Mine cruise the beach year round.

And watching their children grow up has been fun. One evening a friend (who also happens to be a Mudminnow partner) stopped by the house. Her first words were “Come out here and look at this bird.” So I came outside and looked at the bird. We looked at each other, looked back at the bird, looked at each other again. This could have gone on forever, until I finally voiced our thoughts.

It looks like a chicken.”

Of course it wasn’t a chicken. It was an immature bald eagle, just sitting in a weird position atop the tree. This past winter my neighbor put deer carcasses on the beach, specifically to give the eagles some easy food, and our pair showed up with two of their children.

And now, once again, they’re actively nesting. They probably already have chicks in their nest. It’s impossible to know. But they’re in their home, I’m in mine, and all is well on the beach.

–Lesley

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One Response to “Eagles In the Air”

  1. […] brings me to the title of this blog. In the years I’ve been watching that nest, there have always been eagles there. I didn’t think I did, but obviously I took it for granted […]

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