a stroll along the pigeon...
The eagle was sitting on a barren branch on the far side of the river. The white feathers on its head shone brightly in the sun, while the body appeared almost pure black with bronze highlights. The head was turned in my direction and I wondered how long it had been watching my approach. This seemed like an excellent time to take another break, so I eased behind some brush and shrugged out of my backpack.
Eagles have amazing eyesight and I knew I wouldn't be able to watch without him(her?) knowing I was there. The only thing I could do was to move very slowly and appear as non-threatening as possible. Usually a bird in this situation would decide to move to a less crowded spot. Today though, I was in luck.
While I was behind the brush I pulled my head net over my face to cut down on the glare and then eased forward until there was only a thin screen of branches between the eagle and I. Before long, he either forgot about me or dismissed the threat I posed and returned his attention to the business at hand - fishing.
Many people don't know that a bald eagle's main diet is fish. While they are not above scavenging for their food, as Benjamin Franklin often pointed out, they are truly superb at taking fish near the surface of the water.
The farseeing eyes scanned the river for the slightest movement. The high perch allowed the masterful fish predator to see deep under the water's surface. I was close enough to see the slight movements the bird took when it spotted anything of interest in the stream.
The minutes slipped by and I was beginning to think this was all I would see. Then suddenly, the eagle hunched forward and dropped from the branch. A few flaps of the wings brought it up to speed as it swooped for the surface below.
The final strike was surprisingly clean, with only a small splash as the eagle's talons entered the water. Seconds after leaving the branch it was struggling skyward with a bright fish clenched firmly in both feet. The silvery color and slight blush of red along the side of the fish identified it as a rainbow trout.
Once the eagle had cleared the treetops, it went into a climbing turn that took it north. I stood and watched until fish and bird vanished from sight. It was easy to picture the avaricious eaglets waiting anxiously for their next meal. I determined to keep my eyes open for the nest, so I could avoid disturbing the parents as I passed by. In the end, I never did see the nest or catch sight of the eagle or its mate again.
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