I have delayed, avoided, and postponed writing this because I wanted to find the words to convey my recent profound experience.
For more than a month, we have had Bald Eagles visiting on our quiet little dead-end street, unusual in the middle of one of the largest, fastest growing cities in Washington state.
I’ve lived in my home for almost 44 years and have sometimes seen eagles circling high above. Twice, I was even gifted with a low fly-by right in my driveway! But I have only seen them land once before. (I wrote a whole story about that dramatic event but I’ll save it for a later post!)
A few weeks ago on my daily walk I just happened to spot, well actually hear some sky activity. A couple of Bald Eagles, apparently cruising our neighborhood for prey or a nesting site (although it seems late in the year for that latter). Not sure why they are hanging out here. (Hope all the neighbors are keeping their pet Gerbils inside.)
It was a really gray day which made it impossible for my hard-working point and shoot Canon to get a good shot when they landed in a tree top.
And then, a few days later, I was at my computer sending a favorite link to my new blogging friend, Lisa, at https://dailymusing57.com/ (a terrific Blog, by the way). The link is to a live camera for the Decorah Eagles. As I was typing, I heard that unmistakable eagle-screaming right outside my window! I ran outside onto my deck (without my camera-Dang!) and witnessed the most amazing thing.
This deck is very large, about 600 square feet, and wide open. It’s actually the roof over an old 3 car garage. Before the trees in my neighborhood matured, from my deck I could see the Space Needle and the Olympic Mountains! And every year, lounging on this deck, I would watch the big fireworks shows in July or the Blue Angels performing in August.
But I had never seen a show like this one! There were FIVE BALD EAGLES circling my above me!! Like a small Convocation! (you gotta be impressed I knew that word!) It looked like two were fending off or chasing the other three. Maybe it was a territory battle or some kind of mating ritual. I don’t know!
The twosome flew very close together in large and then smaller and smaller circles. They landed on the top of the biggest tree right in front of my house. The other three flew off into the distance.
In all these years living in my house, no eagle has ever landed right in front of my house before! Maybe I was just tapped into Eagle Energy on that day or something. I mean, what are the odds I’d be typing away about the Decorah Bald Eagles at the exact moment my local ones appear? I have often wondered if Eagles are a “totem” (spirit animal) for me. Supposedly, if an animal presents itself to you three times, they are yours! So I looked them up.
For the next several days, the Pair that won the turf battle, hung out in some trees right up the street from me.
Finally, a sunny day. I shot so many pictures, I broke my camera…literally. I now have to use glass tape to keep the battery door closed.
Now my neighbors all know about our visitors. I am the longest (and oldest) resident on our street and the self-appointed Wildlife Reporter for our neighborhood e-mail list. When I am in the street with my camera, looking up, they stop their cars and ask where the Eagles are today? There have been many emails of sightings, almost as many as when there is a coyote prowling around. On Easter morning, several households were treated to a dramatic Bald Eagle show during outside Easter Egg Hunts. Great opportunities to teach the younger ones about these majestic birds!
Part of the “show” was a couple of Crows dive-bombing these two Eagles, who seemed to be simply sitting there…but I bet there was a Crow’s nest near by.
This whole experience has totally inspired me to upgrade with WordPress so I can share short videos on my blog. And I think there is a way to capture single frames from a video but I don’t know how. Here is the opening frame of a great video I got of that epic sky-battle. (It’s a photo of my computer screen, so sort of a blurry “screenshot.)
In recent weeks, almost every clear morning and evening this beautiful twosome sits at the top of my tree to watch the sun rise or set. They remind me of a scene in the movie City of Angels (Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage) where all the Angels are lined up on the beach to watch the Sunset. (It’s in this Goo Goo Dolls video)
I have been house and dog sitting for dear friends this last week, so I have missed their visits, but every day I drive the 25 miles back to my house hoping for a sighting. I pay lots of attention to my three cats for a while, pretending that’s why I’m home, but then, I go out on my deck looking for my Bald Eagles. I miss them. (Do NOT tell my kitties that’s really why I’m home. They are so sensitive!)
One morning, at the place I’m staying, I looked up from writing this story to see a huge bird right outside on the fence…some kind of Hawk, I think. Couldn’t get my camera focused fast enough but here he is.
Anybody recognize this pretty? I thought to myself “Hmm, settling for a Hawk? It’s just not the same.” but when I looked up the Native American symbolism for Hawk, it was so close to Eagles I decided I’d better start paying better attention to their message for me.
I have to admit that with all this activity and totem research, I am now taking these Bald Eagle visits very personally. I’m looking at my current life differently and as usual, with a “message from the Universe”, there is a mixture of wonder, awe, and Duh!
If I knew how to thank these birds, I would.
I mean, I’m not going to sacrifice one of my cats or anything, but I am truly grateful for their amazing and persistent presence.
I was sitting outside, at the table on my sister’s deck, trying to capture a good photo of one of her many hummingbirds. She has several feeders as well as a ton of flowers all around so the photo opportunities were abundant. I even put a feeder right in the center of the table, inches away from me but still was not that happy with the shots I was getting.
I got this one…
And then this…
But the one that surprised me was THIS!! Look carefully. (I call it “Incoming”!)
And then my favorite.
I almost erased it until I really looked at it!!!
I’m so glad I didn’t delete it. I LOVE this picture!
Who knows what else we miss when we don’t really look closely….
The FIRST kind is the overwhelming winner in terms of numbers of encounters. I see birds everywhere. I don’t even know I am watching for them but I find them where ever I go.
The SECOND kind of encounter is spotting evidence of birds…nests, feathers, and POOP.
And a Bird Encounter of the THIRD kind is actual contact, in all its forms, including actual “conversations” (out loud or not…).
This week I have had all THREE!
Day One-Bald Eagles
Not really that strange here in the Northwest. We see them often, but usually just on a fly-by, though I have witnessed a Murder of Crows attacking a Bald Eagle and bringing him to all the way to the ground. That’s another post.
This week, on my morning walk, I heard a great commotion among Crows and Eagles. It’s a familiar sound…someone is probably raiding someone else’s nest. But when I looked up I saw FIVE Bald Eagles. There was a pair who seemed to be fighting off the rest. They succeeded in driving off the other three and then landed in a tree a couple of houses away from mine. They chattered and pealed and then were quiet but present long enough for me to walk home and get my camera. But it was an extremely gray day so lousy photos.
Barely a First Encounter.
Day Two-Bird Suicide
Sitting at my computer…all the cats having their morning naps…and a loud crack/crash sound startles us all. We know what it is and we all head to the window where we know a bird has smashed into. Sure enough, the evidence immediately informs us of the bird’s fate.
I had to go outside to confirm that there was nothing I could do.
She was so pretty, probably a little House Finch, and to honor her beauty and tragically ended life, I got the camera.
Lucy watched from inside the whole time…
I put the tiny body in the crook of a tree while deciding what else I could/should do and went into the house. By the time I came back out, a neighbor’s cat was carrying the corpse off. Well, I guess at least her body wasn’t wasted….an encounter of the SECOND KIND.
I LOVE Crows and have a grandiose belief that they love me too. I even fantasize that they follow me. On this morning, I took the boys out to their favorite before school breakfast (Burger King) on the condition that we eat in the car. My secret plan was to have a Close Encounter! I’m always on the lookout for a great teaching moment and sure enough, we were treated to a Crow Show right there in the parking lot.
I call this an Encounter of the SECOND and 1/2 KIND…they did “contact” my car for sure!
Day Four-Sick Bird
While hanging up a fresh Hummingbird feeder, I almost stepped on this little guy, or girl. I was thinking at first a baby female Grosbeak but no bandit mask…and besides way too early for babies.
I put her up on the Hummer feeder to keep her from getting stepped on (or cat-captured).
Definite contact, of the THIRD KIND.
Day Five-Bird Feeder (squirrel intruders)
Well, I have not upgraded to a Premium blog site yet so I cannot show you the hysterical video I took of thwarting the intrusive squirrels who climb the seed feeder pole and knock it to the ground so they can stuff their silly cheeks with sunflower seeds.
This is an ongoing problem. I’m not actually bigoted. I hold Squirrels, despite their rodent status, as equal to all the other animals I like to feed. But the squirrels vacuum up the crow food each morning and continuously knock off the bird feeder, often breaking it into pieces, so I feed them in THEIR (yes, segregated) area, under THEIR trees. This does not work. They insist on amalgamating!
I read somewhere that if you spray WD40 on the pole of a feeder, the squirrels can’t climb it. But I worried about it making them sick, so I sprayed PAM (the non-stick cooking spray). IT WORKED!! That’s the video I wanted to show you. The squirrels leaping at the pole, expecting to be able to climb to the top to pig out, and repeatedly sliding helplessly back down! It only lasts about 6 days (maybe because of our rain) so the pole needs to be re-treated, but hey, I went to Costco and got enough to last until maybe they learn and give up? (right…like they will give up…) But I feel a responsibility to continuing my years-long practice of feeding all my local birds, so I continue the battle with the squirrels, Encounters of the IRRITATING KIND!
SOME of my Yard Birds
Day Six–Really Sick Bird
I have a favorite chair in my living room. It sits in the sunny nook of a corner window and rotates so I can see outside in comfort. It’s not just where I sit to warm up, or to watch the birds in my yard, but it is a special chair filled with connections and memories. It belonged to my “adopted” sister’s Mom, Ruth (don’t even try to figure that out) and was given to me when Ruth passed away. And it’s BLUE! On this day, sitting in my chair, I spotted a small bird out in the yard, another small Sparrow.
I watched and saw it hop and flutter and flap some but no real flight. Uh oh. Too early for a fledgling so I went out to see her. She looked a lot like the bird who had flown smack into the window but on this one, up close I could see why. She was full grown but completely blind. Ah geez. I am already the lost and stray animal magnet of the area. I’d never hear the end of it if I adopted a sick bird…especially a blind one. (I was married to a man who was blind and though it didn’t end well, we had some really great years together.)
When I got closer, I put out my hand and she walked right into it…again and again.
I lifted her up to put her on the seed feeder and then could see it was an eye infection. Another video I couldn’t post showed her attempts at flying when I tossed her up in the air. She’d flutter back to the ground, I’m realizing now because she couldn’t see where else to go.
I put her in one of my small bug containers for the ride.
It was quite a drive to get there and most of the way she was quiet but I cringed when I could hear her flapping around in that confined space.
At PAWS, they were so helpful and even sensitive, I guess knowing that a person who would capture and transport a sick wild animal might also actually have bonded a bit in the process. They ask you if you’d like to be informed by email of the outcome for your patient and then they reassure you the animal will be returned to as close as they can to the location where it was captured. A huge relief to me, the Queen of Anthropomorphism! (What abut her family? What if she had already mated?? etc.)
They also coached me in how to contribute to the prevention and spread of bird conjunctivitis. Apparently it’s quite common amongst the Finch population and it takes some work to stop the spread. (It may be why the first bird crashed into my window and why the 2nd was sick also.) We need to clean (like seriously, with bleach) the bird feeder at least once a week and rake up all the droppings (seed shells, etc.) It’s also a good idea to take down the feeder now and then to let the current population “disperse “. That one will be harder for me as watching the feeder is a treasured part of my daily routine.
This so specifically an Encounter of the THIRD KIND, I came back home wanting to go and get a pet bird. I can still FEEL her little feet on my finger!
Day Seven-Bald Eagles “They’re Baaack!”
Word is out in our neighborhood that we have had several visits from this pair of Bald Eagles. A few days ago, literally, as I was sending out an email to some dear friends about the Decorah Eagle Cam website, (http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles) I heard that unmistakable scream right outside my window!!
I sent a quick email follow up about what happened next:
“As I was sitting here sending you all the link about my beloved Decorah Eagles, I heard eagle-screaming right outside my window!
I ran outside without my camera but witnessed the most amazing thing. There were FIVE BALD EAGLES circling my deck!! It looked like two were fending off or chasing the other three. Or maybe it was some kind of mating ritual.
The twosome flew very close together in large and then smaller circles. Then they landed on the top of the biggest tree in front of my house. The other three flew off into the distance.
This might be the same pair I watched the other day, cruising our neighborhood for prey or a nesting site (although it seems late in the year for that latter). Not sure why they are hanging out here.
I ran in for my camera but just like the other day, it is so gray out it was hard to get much more than a silhouette. Wish they would have stopped by yesterday when that sun was so bright.
In all these years living in my house, as many times as I have been gifted with a low fly-by, no eagle has ever landed right in front of me before! Maybe I was just tapped into Eagle Energy today or something. I do consider them somewhat of a Totem. Better get out the Animal Speak book and read again why I might be needing their input in my life right now….”
My neighbor Mimi knows about my bird obsession (similar to her fruit tree obsession…you rarely see Mimi on the ground, instead of in a tree top, pruning away.) But she also goes for walks most days. She takes her blind, deaf dog Murphy for a walk, well, Murphy AND her two cats, Moses and Purrcy. They make quite a sight sauntering down the street, in a line; the dog, the woman and these two cats who have trained themselves to traipse after her just about anywhere.
She called me from her walk yesterday and said “Kathie, your Eagles are back” and told me where. I grabbed the camera and walked up the street.
Beautiful sunny day. Some minor trespassing, but finally, even with my little point and shoot Canon, I got these pictures!
Not sure how to number this Encounter but as strange as it might sound to some, I believe this was of the FOURTH KIND, through some connection bigger than I can explain.
PS By the way, the little bug container I used to transport the sick House Finch in, was knocked off my back porch last night and trashed. I wondered if I had slept through another wind storm or something. But then I saw them. Those dang SQUIRRELS! Foraging around in the broken box for the last of the seeds I had put in there for the little bird.
Would it be wrong for me to invite those Eagles back for some Squirrel Gumbo???
OK, OK, I know. That’s just my impatience talking….
AHH, gotta go. I hear screaming and cawing outside!
By the way, if you have read this far, Thank You. It was a long week.
I’d really appreciate comments and also that you pass this on to any bird people you know!
Some of today’s ideas were borrowed from one of my favorite movies Close Encounters.
“The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.” *