I first saw the eagle on Moberly Road, at sunrise. I heard a funny noise, somewhere between a peep and a cough, and looked up to discover this gawking at me —
— whereupon I made a funny noise, somewhere between a shriek and a rude word. The eagle cocked its head, and did a pugilistic sort of shoulder-shrug, like a boxer loosening up between rounds. It was maybe twenty feet above me, cradled in a tangle of boughs. It was big: several times the size of the Cooper’s hawk I saw last summer — big enough to bend the branches. Big enough to be imposing, with only its top third poking over the branches. It was pointy: beak, feathers, and I couldn’t see its claws, but I’m sure those were plenty sharp, too. It was alert: somehow, I’d captured its full attention.
Though its feet were not in view, I could feel it shifting from one to the other. I couldn’t help picturing it swooping down on my head. I was afraid to look away. I mean, what if it did decide I looked tasty? I’d hear wings, look up, and the last thing I’d see would be a great manky set of eagle talons, coming for my face.
Confronted with death on wings, naturally, I
ran for my life grubbed a bit of paper out of my pocket, and scribbled down its essential features: pale, pale eyes; heavy, scowling brows; feathers fluttering in the breeze; very sharp beak — did I mention its beak? — its very, very sharp beak — its wicked, hooked, vicious beak, its nasty, eviscerating beak — and did I mention I’d just seen a photo of a bird of prey ripping a mouse’s face off, a couple of days before this encounter? Seriously — it’s on Bird Light Wind — look for yourself! And that bird wasn’t nearly as big as the one looming over my head.
I hadn’t brought my camera, owing to the sun scarcely being up, but once I’d got the eagle sketched, I decided I had to try for a photo. I don’t see a lot of eagles, round here. Come to think of it, I don’t see a lot of eagles anywhere. In fact, I’d never seen a wild eagle before, in my life. So I told it to stay right there (because birds usually listen to me; really, they do), and ran for my camera. Or started to. Of course, as soon as my back was turned, the blasted bird took to the skies. Hardly sporting! I stood dejected, watching it vanish over the rooftops, figuring that was the last glimpse of eagle I’d get.
Fortunately, I was wrong. Maybe half an hour later, I was slumped on my balcony chair, inking my eagle sketch and lamenting my lost photo op, when a great commotion of caws came drifting across the creek. I grabbed my camera, just in time to spot the eagle getting harassed by the neighbourhood crows. (Fair warning: the following photos are absolute rubbish — the eagle was on the other side of Leg In Boot Square, and I was afraid it’d be gone already, if I went over to find it. Plus, it was dismally overcast, the sun wasn’t all the way up, and a light fog was down. But I had to get something, so I’d know I didn’t dream it. And I really mean that. I dream of excellent bird sightings all the time, and wake up wondering if I saw the birds before or after drifting off.)
Funny, how these crows can be so intimidated by gulls at the feeder, but they’ll divebomb a bloody eagle all morning.
The eagle had chosen the crows’ favourite tree for its roost. I’m not joking, either: that tree’s full of crows every morning and evening. They love it. The eagle’s arrival was like…well, imagine a huge, terrifying dork trying to sit at the cool kids’ table. Like that. Lots of noise and indignation.
While I watched the crows, my downstairs neighbour came out on his balcony, and blazed up a doob. When I leaned way out over the railing and looked down, I could just see his socked foot, protruding over the edge of his footstool. He was twitching his toe. I think I got second-hand high again, because while I was watching the eagle through my camera’s lens, a song sparrow landed right next to me, and the sound of its little feet scared me half to death. I also thought I could feel the vibration of it hopping along the railing, through my elbows (which were also on the railing). That’s not possible, is it? Is it? Anyway, my coat smells like marijuana, now. Thanks a lot, neighbour.
While I watched the eagle, a gull came and watched me. It was waiting for me to get out of the way, so it could use the feeder. The crows and sparrows didn’t care; they hopped right in, scarcely sparing me a second glance.
I was glad to thwart the gull.