I took a photo of one of the local bald eagles this past Monday, and it came out great. It's perched at the top of a tall tree overlooking the Portage River, the tallest in a long line of trees. All the leaves are gone, the eagle's back is to the camera, its white head clearly recognizable. The eagle is scanning the farm fields and river below, and there's an orange sunset visible through the lower branches of the trees. The eagle is above
all that, however...
Moto content: many, perhaps most, of my eagle sightings have been from various motorcycles, then kayaks, then cars. There's just something about not having a roof that helps... There's also something about being able to look straight up at a bird whose wing span is comparable to the wheelbase of my motorcycle.
Plus, sometimes I get visitors here, from the various lists. I figure they might like knowing about our eagles...
We didn't have bald eagles here when I was little. Nor had I ever seen a bald eagle on trips out west, not until I went to Alaska in 1999.
The first eagle I *think* I saw was here in Ohio, a huge shadow gliding through the dusk, visible through the trees when some friends and I had been kayaking too long after sunset on the Sandusky River. I was skeptical that it could be an eagle, so I figured it was just a heron. We have lots of those...
My next sighting was from the seat of my Suzuki DR-350 north of Tiffin, I was almost home as the bird came gliding downhill acoss a farm field toward me and the Sandusky River. It flew directly over my wife and me on the bike, perhaps twenty feet up, and then simply looked down at us as it glided overhead. I swear it was looking *right at us*, moving its head to keep us in sight as it went past. I've read that animals don't have emotions, but
if I had to guess I'd say he was both curious and unafraid. It was
The third time I saw a bald eagle was out my livingroom window, a couple months later. We lived in a former grist mill, upstairs, and the window faced out over the Sandusky River. One day we came home, looked out the window, and oh my... Across the river maybe 200' away, perched in a dead tree, was a bald eagle. The eagle perched there long enough for me to get the binoculars, and to look up "bald eagle" in a birding guide a friend had given me. Yup, that's what it was. Looked just like the picture... And
hung out for maybe 20 minutes.
The above was around 1993.
After that, the sightings blur. The eagle population in Ohio has continued to improve, and a very large chunk of the population is here in Northwest Ohio, building new nests and raising their young along the same rivers I enjoy, the Portage and Sandusky in particular. In the January 2003 census, Ohio's eagle population was 304, a record. The biggest number, 80, are in Sandusky county, where I work. The next highest concentration was 20, in Ottowa county, which I have to go through to get to work.
So now I see bald eagles on a pretty regular basis, usually along the rivers but not always. There's a nest near Fremont, one near Gibsonburg / Woodville on US-20, one outside Pemberville near where I live, several around Tiffin, and I've heard rumors from kayakers that they've been seeing eagles on the Maumee River this year upstream of Toledo, so there may be a new nest in that area too.
I've seen one circling high while I was waiting in line at the bank
drive-thru in Pemberville, another on the Portage while I pumped my own gasoline in Elmore. I've seen one eating carrion on US-20 during my commute home, another flying along the Sandusky River while I was on my way to work in the morning near Fremont, and a couple times I've seen them just hanging
out in the winter in a field of corn stubble.
Jean-Luc's first sighting was from the back of my Concours in fall of 2001, an adult bald eagle in a field of corn stubble maybe a mile outside Pemberville. It didn't phaze him much, and I couldn't understand how he couldn't be amazed at seeing a bird as big as him. He explained to me that he'd seen eagles before, in pictures and on the back of our U.S. quarter-dollar, so it was no big deal... Until he saw the eagle liesurely spread its 6' wings and take off, climbing to 40' with maybe 3 beats of its wings, disappearing into the trees that line the Portage River. That had Jean-Luc babbling...
His second sighting was a couple months later, when we stopped the car to watch a bald eagle in a field of corn stubble on US-20 east of Woodville. Jean-Luc told me to chase it so it would take off, as he wanted to see it fly. Yeah right, son; as if I'm going to harass an eagle next to a four-lane road and end up in jail over it.
His third sighting was on the Portage River, downstream of Pemberville, from the front seat of our 2-seater whitewater kayak this past spring. The river flows past the nest, directly under it, and the eagle explained to us that we weren't welcome there by circling 20'-30' above our heads and sqawking loudly, flying so close we could hear the "fwup-fwup-fwup" of its wings as it went over... No, I didn't have a camera handy then. That's the shot that got away.
The eagle then shadowed us for the next 2-3 miles downriver, landing in trees ahead of us near the water, letting us drift on the slow current to within about 20' of him / her, so close we could hear branches and feathers rustle as he got into position for takeoff, then taking off in a huff with a "FWUP-FWUP-FWUP-FWUp-FWup-Fwup-Fwup-fwup..." as the eagle disappeared
downstream around the next bend, waiting for us... This eagle seemed irritated, neither curious nor afraid, and I had the feeling he just wanted to be sure we got the Hell out of *his* yard.
Even though I see them regularly, it's still a big deal every time. And this time, I have a photo.
Smiling... I can't help but think how cool it is to have them as neighbors, even if they are a little standoff-ish.
And yes, I am writing a book...
Alaska Trip 1999
Arizona Trip 2002