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Monday, March 5, 2012

On Seeing Eagles

This morning, driving down Wellesley Ave. in Otis Orchards, Washington, I saw what seemed to be a hawk circling near the elementary school. The area is flush with red tailed hawks, and so I didn't find this particular bird remarkable - until I got closer and thought it must be the largest hawk I'd ever seen. Then, I saw the white tail and the white head. It was a bald eagle, probably over from Liberty Lake for brunch. It was a rare sight.

A few years ago, Karen and I were walking from our house in Post Falls up to the old barn when we saw a flock of crows circling the upper meadow. As we approached, they rose up, and we saw a deer carcass, which had been largely picked over. There was no blood trail. It looked like a coyote kill. Walking south along Anna Spring, we were shocked by two bald eagles crossing the trail about 10 feet off the ground, 20 feet in front of us. Magnificent. It was the first time we'd seen bald eagles here, though there are times they've been seen in profusion at Liberty Lake and Lake Coeur d'Alene.

When we lived in Laramie, Wyoming, I often saw golden eagles while on bike rides on Herrick Lane. Along that flat, undulating route, with cottonwoods along distant springs, the eagles built nests and perched atop telephone poles. Brown feathers flecked with gold, massive, watching for vermin. I thought this morning, as I saw the bald eagle, that I favored the golden eagles. Birds are what they are, but to me the golden eagle seems more stealthy, more deadly in its visual subtlety.

These days on my rides, I mostly see ducks and geese on the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail. Some quail. The occasional coyote. And, of course, red tailed hawks. I miss seeing the golden eagles as I ride, racing pronghorns across the prairie. You make do with what you've got.

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