Surreal Skies

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

11 responses to “Surreal Skies

  1. Wow, you (and Gus) are lucky the eagles haven’t tried to carry Gus off yet!

    You’d like my house. Nothing but benign cardinals and mockingbirds as far as the eye can see. Well, there is one big hawkish-looking creature… maybe an owl or two… oh, never mind. I guess you can’t get away from them any more than I can avoid all spiders.

  2. Not only do I worry about the eagles getting Gus (oh, yes I do!), but I worry about all of the hawks around here. Kevin says that Gus’ claws would assure he would be instantly dropped, but I’m not so sure. I also worry about putting Lily out on her run. I know the leash would protect her to a certain extent, but the birds wouldn’t know that.

    I think as long as I have animals, I won’t be able to feel secure around here. The birds are really intimidating.

  3. I love it! Who knew you could strike a balance? A dove pooped on me last week.

  4. John Belushi’s final movie, Continental Divide, had him as a Chicago journalist on the run from the mob holing up and falling in love with an eagle specialist…find it! You’ll love it.

  5. Lenka ~ If a dove pooped on me, I’d need meds. Seriously. Bird poop falls into the category of creepy things birds do.

    LFC ~ As long as he doesn’t fall in love with the eagle itself…

    Actually, I saw that movie many moons ago. I remember very little about it. It’s probably due for a re-viewing.

  6. Eagles are so cool! I saw one flying over an interstate bridge in Dubuque once, it dipped close to the car and took off. You’re right, they’re massive.

    Maybe this bird watching can get you past the bird fear?

  7. They’re showing up here more often on almost a daily basis. We’ve been seeing them over the backyard a lot lately.

    No, the bird watching won’t make the fear go away. Strangely enough, Kevin’s late wife had the same fear. She’s the one that insisted on all of the bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths. She was hoping to get over her fear, too. It didn’t do any good. I can watch them all day long, but if I get close to one, I wig out.

  8. I want to learn more about birds. There are a lot of them around here. A lot of different kinds. Maybe I’ll join a group since I don’t have a Bird Nerd!

    When my son was in second grade (a gazillion years ago) I learned a lot about hawks when he had his hawk unit. We learned where to go find them and watch them. We learned to identify them when they flew overhead. It was fun. But I can’t remember any more.

  9. I am not afraid of birds, but I distrust all small creatures (anything smaller than a cat). Especially the kind that sneak up on you. A cricket can drive me into frantic squeals and shrieks.

    I’ve never seen a bald eagle, and I bet that is a sight to behold!

  10. Corina ~ I never thought I’d end up as a person who enjoys bird watching, but here I am. It’s quite a strange hobby for someone like me.

    Nancy ~ The eagles are amazing. Seeing them is almost a religious experience. They’re so new to this area that I still get a thrill when I see one.

  11. There is an eagle’s nest located about 2 miles from my husband’s parent’s home. When they were alive (his parents, not the eagles)we would make an effort to check it out every month or so. We would all pile in the car and make the drive over to check their progress. It was really cool to watch them raise each years offspring. The transition from eaglet to adult is fascinating to see. They grow so quickly. Eagles are an amazing sight – both soaring high above, or even just perched on a limb, preening themselves. I could watch them for hours and never get tired of it. I haven’t been up there this year, I kind of had more important things to do this summer. I’m sure the nest is empty of this year’s brood, but I’m going to make a point to get back up there and check on them next year, for sure.

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