Eagle 2

I was sailing back upriver through the Narrows, sluicing through with the tide and wind both.  Gulls and osprey hover over this area,  diving into the back eddies to fish.  The current swirls so much I wasn’t paying attention to them, trying to keep the boat from getting broached.  One osprey (sea-hawk) dived in front of me, and I thought, “He was big,” and sho’ nuf, what surfaced was the white head of a young eagle – probably last year’s child of the mother in “Eagle”, back a bit in this blog.

I’ve seen eagles hit and grasp at the surface with their talons, but I’ve seldom seen one dive head-first like this.  And then: Instead of flying up, his white shoulders came above the water’s surface and he swam – literally doing a slow breast-stroke beat of his mighty wings underwater, lifting them mostly up and out to get them forward – as if carrying a heavy weight to shore.  When he got there, the reason was evident – he dragged a big bass up on the gravel beach, secure in his talons.  The fish was too heavy for him to fly with.  The ospreys and gulls tried to dive bomb him and drive him away from the sivery white fish, still flapping a little but held very firmly.  Between them and the huge ‘bird’ of the sailboat, he flew a few feet, but had to set down again – the fish was almost as big as he was!  My last view was of him starting to eat his meal al fresco, with the other birds circling around him like a horde of over-attentive waiters at a bistro.

It makes me remember: I have actually seen an eagle swim another time.  We were sailing in the Bras d’Or lakes in Nova Scotia.  Brackish and large, they behave somewhere between lakes and a sea.  The wind started out mild, so we set a mackerel lure behind the boat to see what we could catch for supper, enjoying the tall pines and sweeping fields that attracted Alexcander Graham Bell when he was developing the telephone in Boston and had his ‘little Scotland’ out here.  Bell was a polymath, and well worth studying – he built a submarine, tetrahedronal kites, all kinds of stuff beyond the telephone.

The wind picked up and suddenly we were all hands on deck doing the sail management thing – winds will take you by surprise on lakes.  By the time we got out of the worst of it and in the lee of an island, we had forgotten all about the lure.  And then we saw a huge eagle descending to about 100 yds behind us.  We were admiring the outstretched wings, the huge claws – until suddenly we realized, “Oh, no, he’s going for the lure!”.  We reeled it in madly, but we were way too late and he was way to accurate: wham, splash, and oh my god, we caught an eagle.  Tangled up witht he line and the hooks, he swam in that same way – white head out, shoulders shrugging through the water.  He (I’m assuming) made it to the shore of an island, and somewhere in there the line broke between the lure and the boat, but it was still tangled around his legs.

Annie and Ros got into the rowboat while I stayed on the boat to keep it sailing around, and they went toward the eagle.  Before they could get there, he thankfully disengaged himself from the gear and flew off into a nearby tree, to our shouts of relief and delight.  I don’t know what thay would have done anyway: ‘Here, Mr Wild Eagle 30″ tall, let me just untangle our fishing line from your talons right in front of your beak’ – I don’t think so.  They recovered the lure and we were careful about it for the rest of the trip.

But eagles can swim, if compelled.


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