Friday, February 18, 2011

the eagle in the yard (Sept. 11, 2006)

Current mood: excited

This isn't some patriotic, 9/11-related blather. It's about the huge bird in the yard. I have never seen a bird this big anywhere, let alone my front yard.

Sarah saw it first, Friday mid-morning as we were headed out. It had landed in the pine tree next to the street, causing the branch to droop easily two feet. A nearby squirrel was screaming in alarm -- not clucking and barking and scolding as if the cat were visible. For all I know it was becoming lunch. Anyway, Sarah yelled "My God, it's huge!!" I got outside in time to see it fly off the branch. Two flaps, and it was over and past the across-the-street neighbor's roof. With a couple of quick circles, it left the immediate vicinity, but not before I got a good look at it.

Being a frequent pedestrian, I often see crows, which are of a pretty good size, and other large birds at close range. There are a few turkeys that roost within a radius of a few hundred meters. Buzzards are also huge, with wingspans of five or six feet. I saw a live one up close at the Hinckley Ohio buzzard festival a couple of years ago.

Red-tailed hawks are a daily sight, too, both on lightposts along major highways and right here in 15237-land. I've even waited for a bus while a hawk was on the pole next to me, farther away vertically than horizontally (shudder).

And believe me, this was no hawk. It was not a turkey. It was not a buzzard. It was bigger. It had to be an eagle. I saw it from less than 75 feet away. Those wings would measure seven, maybe eight feet, tip to tip.

It made a brief appearance Saturday afternoon, flying by. But it was the Sunday night appearance that made believers out of the rest of the family. As with Saturday, I was just walking through the yard (burying compost, actually), when I saw it fly to the top of a tree across the street and perch in perfect profile. I dashed into the house, whereupon everyone dropped everything, chased outside, and followed my arm. They all saw it, too.

I even had time to grab my telescope and set it up, but it flew before I could get a proper fix on it.

A bit later, I called my sister and described it to her. She has a degree in forestry, and is no stranger to identifying wildlife. Her guess is that it is an immature bald eagle, not the golden eagle I was guessing it is.

From what I've gleaned over the years, eagles are rare. And to find one in a residential area is rare indeed. Granted my area isn't a clear-cut, heavily built-up development, and in fact there are at least three trees on my little quarter acre that stand 60 or more feet in height. I'm guessing that two of them, both oaks, are original forest canopy, and chances are good that maybe five or six of them would classify as such.

So if it's big, old trees that have brought this eagle into my midst, then I feel both proud and justified that I didn't take them down. Every other one of my neighbors has felled a large, live tree; I've only taken down little scrubby ones or large, dangerous dead ones. And I have an eagle in mine.

What a neat way to run up to September 11!

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