For a person who is terrified beyond belief by birds, I have certainly had more than my share of unusual encounters with them. As long as there is at least a pane of glass or a little bit of distance separating us, I can enjoy them as much as the next person. I’m grateful for this, as a couple of years ago I moved to this little town, right on the shores of Lake Erie. We live very close to the water and the bird life here is captivating.
I remember sitting on the patio last spring, gazing skyward and feeling in awe of the display to which I was being treated. Seagulls and mallards were abundant. Squadrons of honking Canadian geese made the sky over our home a repetitive part of their exercise path. Egrets and blue heron treated me to some frightening, pterodactyl-like shadows as they cruised overhead on their way to the shallows. It all took on a surreal quality when I heard the ‘whump, whump, whump’ of heavy wings flapping nearby, and a turkey buzzard swooped to within fifteen feet of the ground before gliding upward and disappearing on his way to the beach. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to do my usual freak-out dance.
My husband has turned me into quite the Bird Nerd, along with him. He’s taught me to identify everything from wrens to mourning doves. I’ve even learned to distinguish many different bird calls.
Bald eagles began nesting in our area about ten years ago, but we still don’t get to see them very often. They prefer large bodies of water, and we also have an estuary in our area that they seem to enjoy. When we do have a sighting, it’s a huge treat. To see this once endangered species soaring overhead so close to home is fascinating and breathtaking. I always feel honored when I witness this. They can get as tall as three feet, with wing spans that average seventy-seven inches. I’m pleased that birds that size don’t want to get close to me.
My favorite Bird Nerd has educated me a great deal on this species. He told me about one of their mating rituals that involve them flying at high altitudes, cartwheeling toward each other. They lock talons and free fall, spinning every which way and separating just before hitting the ground.
So, I knew what I was seeing the day I drove over the bridge between the estuary and Lake Erie; the day that two eagles dropped right in front of my car, not ten feet off of the ground and ten feet in front of me before separating and going in two different directions.
The sheer size of these birds with their wings spread during this act, multiplied by two, blocked my sight of the road. Slamming on my brakes, I held my breath as my head jerked from side to side, not sure which one to watch soar away.
I hope the semi driver that nearly rear ended me also caught that view. I would hate to think he missed it and could only complain about the dumb woman driver in fro