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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Monday, February 21, 2011


On Saturday morning we heard a larger ruckus than usual from the seven crows who patrol this part of the shore. They were flying around a fir tree at the edge of the bank, darting in and out of the limbs; one or two perched provocatively on the outer branches. We are not so adept as to distinguish between normal crow cacophony - kvetching or gossiping or arguing politics - and the coordinated calls that means an intruder is near. I looked more closely at the fir tree, indeed stared at it for while, and eventually saw a large brown shape humped on an interior branch. If you're patient and stare at almost anything in nature, eventually something happens, and soon enough the brown shape stirred and shook and flew off, crows triumphantly following. It was a bald eagle.

I had to look in the bird books to be sure, since it had no pure white head to make the ID obvious. Both Sibley and Stokes showed 3rd year, or possibly 2nd year, juveniles that looked like our visitor: large and mottled brown and white, its head more white than brown, its body more brown than white, well on its way to striking stardom.

It came back a little later in the morning. Out of the edge of my eye I saw something swoop down behind the bank by the water, and not re-appear. For a good five minutes I fought the urge to go out and see, but gave in, and like a juvenile myself put on snowboots and coat to walk to the water's edge. I just wanted to be sure and, truth be told, to observe it fly away from much closer. (Rather like throwing a stick at ducks to hear them quack and see them scatter.) The eagle was sitting on a rock, minding its business, alone, apparently out of crowsight, and of course it flew magnificently away as soon as my head came into view above the bank.

I'm not sure what brought it (actually, it was probably a male - it seemed a little too small to be a female, which is apparently noticeably larger) to this side of the bay. We seldom see eagles over here. They tend to populate the islands, unbothered by houses and wires and people peeping over precipices, where parental instruction in fish- and gull-chick-napping is easier to accomplish. Although it is school-vacation week....

He came back yesterday as well. I was out with the dog and watched for an entranced five minutes as he wheeled along the shore, hardly moving a feather in the brisk wind, hardly bothered by the crow patrol mobbing his flight, before he suddenly soared high above the woods behind us, leaving us, mere mortal and Corvus and canine, to wonder and marvel at such indifference.

Today, Presidents' Day, the eagle hasn't been seen. It would have been good to honor him again, alongside the other heroes and villains of the day. But then my view of the shore and bay is so narrow, so restricted, that a whole pantheon of eagles, maybe even bearing arrows and olive branches, could have paraded down the bay unnoticed. The crows continue to chatter, though, which means I've been able to get very little done. Like a distractible child, with my own kind of immature plumage, I constantly look up at every caw and shadow, seeking some magnificence just outside my words, some bigger world than mine.


Jeff Boatright said...

" I constantly look up at every caw and shadow, seeking some magnificence just outside my words, some bigger world than mine."

So be like the birds and give this a try this Spring:


Anonymous said...

Daddy that's awesome! I'm so jealous! -Emma