My first wild bald eagle sighting was years ago at Cape Canaveral, Florida. I was on the bus tour and as we drove out to the Assembly Building, the bus driver indicated a huge mass of branches and sticks sitting in the crotch of a huge tree. He told us it was a bald eagle nest. The nest was nearly twelve feet across. Sitting on the edge of the nest was a mature eagle. I had only read about them before and they were still on the endangered species list at that time. My heart went into my throat thinking that this might be the only time in my life I would see one of these magnificent birds. The use of DDT in the fifties and sixties had serious effect on the eagle population. the poison affected the shells of their eggs. thinning them until the weight of the adult bird setting on them was sufficient to crush the eggs. In 1972 a ban was imposed on the domestic use of DDT. However, it would take many years for the eagle population to recover. Thankfully, I would get another chance to see these birds in 1982.
My brother and I were fishing the South Platte River just south of Denver, Colorado. A shadow passed over our heads and we looked up to see a bald eagle gliding just above the tree tops. It soared out over Cooley Lake, dropped down and took a trout out of the water without so much and slowing down. It flapped away to a nearby tree to feast on his catch. What a sight.
The eagles continued to rebound from the brink of existence and in 1995 I got to see something truly special.
The banks along the Mississippi River has become a breeding area for the eagles. The numbers continue to grow as the river provides good fishing opportunities. I was driving across the river bridge to Hudson, Wisconsin when I was blessed with the opportunity to witness the mating flight of an eagle pair. They turned and dove, cartwheeled and climbed, talons grabbed talons as the two giant birds embraced for a few seconds and then plummeted down only to soar up again. there was twenty or so cars that simply stopped on the interstate highway to watch this spectacle.
Last weekend, I was at my cabin and I stepped out onto the deck with my morning coffee. When I closed the sliding door, i heard a whoosh followed by the whistling thump, thump of huge wings lifting and equally huge bird into the air. The eagle had been resting on a branch, fifteen feet above my head. I could actually feel the power and air movement coming from its wings as it took off. It soared out over the lake toward one of the islands as I watched the white head and tail shine in the morning light. It immediately brought me back to the Cape and my first sighting. I hope I never take seeing these birds for granted. It has been a long road back for such a magnificent creature.