February 20, 2012
Flight of plain, and fancy.
Lemme tell you: no matter how many times a day I see a bald eagle, it stops me in my tracks. And my islander friends who’ve lived here far longer than I? They’ll admit the same thing. You’d think we’d all be jaded, since eagles are a very common sight in the San Juans. Oh, ho hum, just another Bald Eagle…
If my desk could be physically attached to the double-paned, saltwater- and gull-poop splattered glass of my picture windows, it would be. Failing such nifty design, it rests exactly ten inches in front of that wall of windows. Which means that when these ginormous birds and their imposing, six foot wingspan fly right past me as I’m working, they’re gliding only a few feet from my nose. It also means that I keep my cameras– the wide lens and the 300 zoom– close at hand.
Every photo in this post was taken while I was seated at my desk.
I am one lucky composer chickie.
Most were shot last week, and a couple were first seen here.
These breathtaking fly-bys occur many times a day. Sometimes I see the birds on the hunt, swooping past me and out over the water, perchance to snag a [squiggling, writhing] mmmm… yum!… snack. Other times, I see the anthropomorphically touching sight of what appears to be the adult parents training their sizable offspring how to get the longest ride on a thermal, or navigate in a hefty set of gusts, or obnoxiously chase poor little gulls like a big bully (as a small, geeky kid who was harassed in grade school, I’m always rooting for the gulls). Bald eagles don’t start sporting their regal, All-American white headed, white tailed regalia until they’re about four years old. It’s been wonderful watching the youngsters grow up in front of me.
A teenager, lookin’ for trouble.
Spreading those wings. “Hey! Come home by your curfew, or else you’re grounded!”
And in another year or so, he’ll look like this.
And eventually, this!
As it turns out, I’m directly in the path of their shoreline shuttle service, as they soar from one rocky point to the next outcropping to the next cliff. And, back. Sometimes, two or three of them in a row. And occasionally, with lunch in tow: a fish, crab or gull who wasn’t expecting the day to play out quite this way when it got up in the morning.
Effective, and stylish in bright yellow– like a set of Sears Craftsman tools.
For all the eagle photos I’ve managed to accumulate, there are just as many that exist only in the solitude of my memory. Some of the most stunning moments are the ones that happen so quickly, there’s just no time or ability to grab a camera. I just
stare gape, and take it all in on my personal Kodachrome.
Two such moments come immediately to mind. This past summer, an adult eagle flew straight to the rock three short yards by my desk, with an equally adult salmon clutched in its talons. For the unin-fish-iated, salmon are remarkably large and heavy. I’m sure a raptor relief rest station here and there is helpful. I was
pleased awed to be the roadside truck stop du jour. So thrilled, in fact, that as I watched in stunned Oh-My-Gawd muteness as the eagle landed smack in front of me, salmon and all, I had no presence of mind to grab my camera (though I was envious and tempted to try to steal the fish from the damn bird for my own dinner). In fact, had I moved, the eagle would have flown off even sooner than it did. Much like the Great Blue Herons, as large as they are and unflappable as you’d think they’d be, they’re keenly sensitive to movement around them, and have little patience for photo opps. But oh, what a sight.
And then there was the time when, early one morning as I sleepily padded over to my desk to check email, I happened to look up just as an adult bald eagle was flying right toward me. As you can see above, I’ve captured that a few times. But this time was different: dangling from his bright yellow talons was a three foot long, very pink… octopus tentacle. Just one of the eight; who knows where the rest of the unlucky creature lay. I may have written about this earlier on these blog pages. I swear, it looked like a mid-air refueling maneuver gone terribly, terribly wrong. And it was coming full speed directly toward me, veering off only a few yards before hitting the house and creating the Mother of All Splats (the reverse image of the suction cups glombing on to the glass with the eagle dangling from them is something that sped through my brain for a nanosecond). Needless to say, I had neither the time nor the presence of mind to make a move toward my camera, only inches away.
Some things are simply meant to be experienced without a lens in front of one’s face. Most things, in fact.
But I do love capturing the essence of these moments, in images embalmed in pixels so they can be preserved for others to enjoy. Ergo, this blog, of course.
Fly like an eagle.
And compose like a human being completely inspired by one soaring past her drop-jawed face.