Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Little Winter Bird Watching

February 20, 2008
L.A. Kohl

On a trip to Columbia one day this winter, I found myself in the vehicle with only our three youngest children. As we were buzzing along Highway 124 – I spotted something several hundred yards ahead of us that made me do a serious double-take.

I quickly glanced in my rearview mirror to make sure no one was behind me, then let off the gas and began slowing down. I knew if what I thought I was seeing really turned out to be what I thought it was, every child in the back seat needed an opportunity to get a good look at it.

Sure enough, the closer I got, the more apparent it became that I was staring straight at our majestic national bird, the bald eagle. Except this guy wasn’t soaring high above us, like a little speck in the big, blue sky. He wasn’t even perched far away on some high treetop, where I could just barely make out his proud, white head. No, this fellow was just a few feet off the side of the road, sitting straight and tall, right smack in someone’s nicely manicured front lawn. His height was comparable to that of my six year old…maybe even taller. He was so big and attention-grabbing that I never got the opportunity to say a thing. Before I had time to draw anyone’s attention to it, I heard a small gasp from the back seat, and then, “Oh WOW! Look at that!!!”

All three of them saw it, and we were all equally amazed and impressed. By now I was crawling along at about 10 MPH. The eagle eyeballed us without so much as a blink or a ruffling of feathers, and continued to stand there as if it were perfectly normal for small, nondescript vehicles to creep by a few yards in front of him.

It was then that I saw his purpose in claiming that particular spot. Just a few feet in front of him, lying alongside this lucky individual’s driveway, was a dead deer. That explained it; our eagle had found a free lunch.

Several hours later as we were headed back towards home, I couldn’t help slowing down again as we approached the yard from the opposite direction. I knew in my head that the eagle could not possibly still be standing there, posing for us again…but my heart still couldn’t resist hoping. Ah well, my head was correct – no eagle this time…but there was a red-tailed hawk perched atop the same feast that attracted the eagle.

Later that evening, as we excitedly told Nate about our discovery along the road to Columbia that day, he found it rather amusing. I didn’t understand his chuckles until he voiced his humorous take on the whole thing.

“Wow,” he exclaimed, “I thought throwing out a little birdseed was good enough, but those people must take feeding the birds VERY seriously!”

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