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January 2002

baldeag (9819 bytes)

By George Sluker

Earlier that morning, the bulkhead had been iced in, with no inviting prospect of reaching soft water. Now, the outgoing tide conspired with the afternoon sun to sweep a dear path to open water. As I walked the dogs along the length of the bulkhead, I reviewed in my mind my chores for the day. I was particularly pleased with a shrimp dish that I had assembled for an afternoon get together that I had kindly been invited to. As soon as I got back home, I should get ready and actually be on time for the New Year's Day get together.

As cold as it was, the sun shimmering off the water actually felt warm on my face. The crisp air and clear sky were an opiate. A New Years Day Siren was calling, and I unfortunately could not resist her song. Those who have heard the song will understand, those who have not cannot comprehend. Hopefully, the host of the function, that I was now going to be late for, would forgive me.

Even paddling easily, the wind and tide at my back made the first mile rocket by. About two hundred yards ahead on my right the remnants of a long ago washed out peninsula formed an island. Dead wood and stumps act as sentinels at the shore. In the twisted branches two large dark forms eyed my approach. I stopped paddling as the pair took to the air. They majestically swirled around the island a few times, then passed directly above me and flew west. Unmistakably, Bald Eagles! Very large, yet not in adult plumage. Mottled dark browns clothed their bodies and wings, whitish patches interspersed on the lower wings and tail. An invigorating site!

As I resumed paddling, bright red signaled from atop a broken trunk were the eagles had just left. My curiosity flamed, I changed course to investigate. Approaching from up current, I had to be very mindful of the stumps and shallows. As water tried to spill off the face of the island, the current increased. Large chunks of ice were snagging in the root and stump remnants. The red beacon drew me on. Up against the island and buffeted by ice, only fleeting glimpses were possible. The eagles had left their lunch scraps on the table. What appeared to be a muskrat sized hip was locked into the vertical stump shards about seven feet above the water. Surrounded by grinding ice hidden in the small wind driven waves, I sped around the eastern tip of land and on my way.

The Prijon Seayak that I paddled was a wonderfully stable and responsive craft. The fine lines and trihedral hull yielded great speed and secondary stability. The wind froze the spray on the deck and rigging, yet snug inside the kayak and sheltered by my paddling garb and wrapped in my wicking fleece unders, I was toasty warm and dry. Quite a contrast to the harsh world that surrounded my little craft.

Later, as I passed the island on my way back, the crows had moved in to clean the dinner plate. I had forgotten to bring my watch, but the surroundings were timeless. The sun was getting low. It had done a splendid job, lighting a magnificent day. As the young eagles had nourished their bodies, their presence fueled my soul. How fortunate we are to live in such prosperous times, rich in food and freedom. In our own backyard, a boat length and paddle away are all the riches our spirits need.


An adult Bald Eagle is distinctively recognizable from a distance by the massive white head and somewhat rounded white tail the strongly hooked bill,  eyes, feet, and massive legs are bright yellow; the body, wings, & thighs are dark chocolate brown.

 Adults are about 32" long and have huge seven foot wing span! The young will take up to four years to grow from the motled brown to adult colors.

Both fly with slow deliberate wingbeats, wings flat, straight out, primary feathers spread. A piercing scream or loud cackle will announce their presence.


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