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Book of Days

BOOK OF DAYS: A POET AND NATURALIST TRIES TO FIND POETRY IN EVERY DAY

Filtering by Tag: eagle

October 26: Another Eagle

Kristen Lindquist

Pulling into the office parking lot this morning, I stopped quick. Across the lot, at the top of a tree, was a large, dark lump. Was it a vulture? A hawk? I wished I had binoculars. But then it turned its head, the light caught on white feathers: bald eagle!

I slowly pulled into the lot, hoping that I wouldn't startle the big bird from its perch. I was able to park, open my window, and get my camera from the back seat. For over five minutes I snapped away while the eagle hung out, observing the river, preening its back feathers, looking around. Eventually I had to get to work, but the bird barely seemed to notice as I opened the car door and got out. I was able to get a few more photos before it decided to move on, slowly flapping those huge wings over to the other side of the river and disappearing into the trees. I took a deep breath full of gratitude and headed in to the office. How many people get to start their work day like that? (And most days, I even like my job too!)

Eagle hanging out.
I sit here staring, smiling,
beneath its notice.

October 20: Coots

Kristen Lindquist

Yesterday my birder friend Don Reimer reported seeing coots on Chickawaukie Lake in Rockland. This in itself is nothing unusual. Each fall a raft of coots, slate-grey waterbirds that are often mistaken for ducks, visits the lake until it ices over, usually hanging around into December. Part of the lake is in our Christmas Bird Count area, and most years we're out there counting coots the last Saturday before Christmas. One year we even came across a red-tailed hawk eating a coot near the public beach area of the lake. A coot is a good meal for a bird of prey, though apparently not very tasty to humans. (We debated whether or not to count that coot in our day's tally, and decided that since it had been alive earlier in the day, it was countable.)

So coots are regulars on the lake this time of year. What was remarkable about Don's report yesterday was the number of coots he observed: 615! I think the most I've ever seen at one time was 50 - 60 birds, 100 at most. I had to see this for myself. So on the way to a meeting in Rockland I stopped by the public beach parking lot. Offshore, I could see a dark mass on the water, a dense island of coots. A smaller bird could have walked across their backs. Without binoculars I had no way to really count them for myself, which would've been a challenge anyway because they were really packed together. Taking a moment to survey the scene, their behavior began to make sense to me. Perched in a nearby tree, looking right at the coot pack, was a big adult bald eagle. The coots were huddled up for security--a straggler would be fair game for the eagle.

Raft of coots afloat
till hungry hawks come, or ice
fills their wayside lake.

October 17: Bald Eagle!

Kristen Lindquist

Every now and then a shout will go up around our (admittedly small) office: "Bald eagle!" We'll all rush to the windows facing the Megunticook River and Mount Battie and look for the bird. Eagles fly up and down the river on a regular basis, sometimes even perching on a riverside tree nearby to watch for fish or harass ducks. Several pairs nest on Megunticook Lake, and the birds seem to use the river as a regular pathway to follow as they fly to and from the harbor.
Bald Eagle on Megunticook Lake. Photo by Roger Wickenden.
So while eagles are not uncommon around here, I still get excited to see one every time that call goes out. This morning I was in a meeting when an eagle flew past the window, then soared above the river a few times, its white head and tail shining in the sunlight. I jumped out of my seat to follow it with my eyes. I'm a sucker for big, soaring birds of prey, I guess. Or perhaps it's a holdover from when I was a kid, when seeing an eagle was a very rare thing. Even though it's fortunately much less unusual these days--eagles having made a healthy comeback in post-DDT years--the sight of one is something I hope to never take for granted.

Look! Sunlit eagle
follows river's winding path,
white feathers aglow.

August 22: Just some eagles

Kristen Lindquist


Late yesterday afternoon we visited my sister and family at their lakeside camp. My brother-in-law, father, and two nieces were out in the little beat-up motorboat that my brother-in-law had somehow coaxed back to life, making the most of the day's dying light with one last ride. When they landed at the dock, my five-year-old niece came running up to see us. "How was the boat ride?" we asked her. "What did you see out there?" "Oh, just some eagles," she replied nonchalantly.

Shortly thereafter, as we shared hors d'oeuvres on the deck, we did indeed see a bald eagle, soaring majestically over the island directly across from us. My niece informed us that she wasn't a fan of eagles because they "look mean." As best we can tell, her only frame of reference for an eagle's facial expression is the wooden eagle sculpture that was hanging near our table at The Waterfront Restaurant when we took her out to dinner there recently. For a child, however, the devil's in the details.

What I love is that seeing "some eagles" is almost a non-event for her. I don't think I saw my first bald eagle here in Maine until I was in high school. And it was years more before I began seeing them on a regular basis. Maine's eagle population has made an incredible comeback from the days of DDT--there are over 500 breeding pairs in the state now, and the species has been federally delisted. Eagles soaring over Maine's lakes are becoming a common sight, one that I hope will remain so for my nieces for many years to come.

A wish for my niece:
may bald eagles always soar
in your summer skies.

March 3: Drive-by

Kristen Lindquist

Driving up Route One on my way to a meeting in Belfast this afternoon, as I drove over the Ducktrap bridge, I happened to glance quickly downriver toward the river's mouth. There was a dark shape of something on the edge of the cobble beach, near the water. Then I was past it. Some things we glimpse and then they're gone, and we never really know what we saw. I think that's when we make up our best stories.

What was that dark shape
hunched, brooding, at river's edge?
Looked like an eagle.

November 7: Cattle Egret

Kristen Lindquist

I rode the morning ferry out to the island of Vinalhaven to spend part of the day birding with a friend who lives there. A naturalist by profession, Kirk knows where to find the birds, and despite the rather bleak, chilly, and eventually rainy day, we had a good time looking. I've gotten out birding so infrequently lately that being able to spend a concentrated amount of time watching any avian life is welcome. So to be shown  a bird I hadn't previously seen in Maine within ten minutes of getting off the ferry was bonus.

Cattle egrets are a small white heron generally seen well south of Maine. Until today, the only ones I'd seen were in Florida and North Carolina. How this one ended up on an island off the Maine coast is one of those mysteries of migration. As I disembarked, I ran into one of the ferry captains who is also a birder--a birder who particularly enjoys chasing rarities. When I explained that I was out there so Kirk could show me a cattle egret, he complained, "Kirk never tells me anything!" An island resident had recently described to him seeing a strange bird, like an "all-white gull with a big yellow bill." It suddenly dawned on him that she'd been describing the cattle egret. He'd have to try to see it on a future trip.

Kirk and I headed off through town to "The Ballfield," where he'd photographed the bird not an hour earlier right next to his car. A woman driving past stopped to tell us that she had recently seen the egret following Wizard. Turns out Wizard is her horse. That made sense to Kirk, because the bird had first been spotted on Greens Island following a small flock of sheep. They got their name because they follow livestock, eating the insects such animals attract. So we went off to see Wizard. Before we got there, however, we spotted the egret hunched over in the middle of a lawn. Kirk set up his scope and we got great looks at this southern visitor.

We were soon joined by a neighbor who knew Kirk and who may or may not have been slightly inebriated. Even though we were clearly already watching the egret, he wanted to be sure we saw the bird, gesticulating wildly at it. "I knew you'd want to see it, because I know you like birds and sh*t," he declared. He had seen the egret earlier standing in a ditch full of minnows, eating. "It looked to me like a f**king big white sandpiper!" he said excitedly. "Is this rare? Because I've never seen a bird like this here before." Kirk assured him that it was very unusual.

You'd think that the rest of the day's birding would have been anticlimactic after that. But although I didn't pick up any more new Maine species, every stop had its highlights. At State Beach, a big flock of pale and lovely snow buntings flew back and forth above the pebbly shore. Horned larks hung out in the road with a single late-migrating semipalmated plover. A great blue heron croaked loudly as it flew in to land on the opposite shore. At Folly Pond, we spotted eight eagles, including a pair of adults perched side by side on a spruce bough, and a couple of brightly plumaged male wood ducks drifted past with a pied-billed grebe. At a culvert called The Boondoggle, a lone yellowlegs stood knee-deep in what must have been freezing cold water while hooded mergansers drifted and bobbed. The Basin offered up hosts of Canada geese and several more duck species.

Even the ferry ride home was not without adventure. My ferry captain friend invited me to ride back to Rockland up on the bridge, which offered great views of flocks of Bonaparte's gulls, a zillion more loons, big rafts of eiders, some surf scoters, and one gannet. He recounted the day last summer when he'd seen an albatross fly across the bow. The passage across the bay was a rough one, with swells rocking the ferry hard enough to knock over a chair at one point. The spray of whitecaps corrugated the surface of the sea. Thanks to turning back the clocks last night, twilight (and a cold rain) were settling in over Rockland Harbor as we pulled into the ferry slip. As we got ready to unload, a seal popped its head out of the water just off the port side, giving us all a long look as if wondering what we were doing out in this weather. Cattle egret, I wanted to tell the seal. And eiders, mergansers, and crossbills. I don't think it would have understood.

Brisk island wind, rain.
Egret and I share a look,
both visitors here.

April 3: Ice Cream and Frogs

Kristen Lindquist

We were in the Freeport area today, so we checked out the hawk watch for a few hours at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. On the short hike up, brown creepers, juncos, and phoebes sang. From the summit we--along with about ten other birders--watched kestrels zip past overhead, red tails shining in the sun. Sharp-shinned hawks flapped and glided in circles around us. In the distance, red-tailed hawks, an eagle, ospreys, turkey vultures, and a goshawk were picked out one by one by the official observers (and eventually us), each bird recognized by its silhouette and flight pattern. A pileated woodpecker called in the forest below us. Tree swallows darted past, the first I'd seen this year. A golden-crowned kinglet hopped in the branches of a nearby tree, crown flared. It was the kind of birding experience that gets my heart racing, and I had all intentions of writing a poem about it. However, as exciting as it was to see those raptors soaring by on their primeval quest to get north, and to see and/or hear other first-of-year birds, different signs of spring gave me today's "haiku moment."

First cone at Round Top:
two scoops with jimmies. Later,
first peeper chorus!

Friend and fellow poet Carl Little has a great spring poem called "Zones of Peeper," about driving around this time of year with the car window cracked open, passing through literal zones of frog song as you go past each vernal pool or wetland. For a moment, the sound pours over you, your heart thrills to it, and then it's gone. We only passed through one zone this evening, but the first one of the season is always the most exciting. Especially if you do so while finishing off an excellent almond joy and Indian pudding ice cream cone.

March 21: Air Space

Kristen Lindquist

My friend Brian and I stopped by Weskeag Marsh this afternoon to see what birds might have arrived. When we first got there, a big flock of crows seemed to be chasing something. They weren't making too much of a ruckus, so they must have successfully driven off whatever they'd ganged up against. Among the mallards, black ducks, and many little green-winged teals, we picked out a great blue heron. Several vociferous killdeer made their presence known throughout the marsh. Another great blue heron flew in. A song sparrow chipped from the bushes. The sun brightened, making it difficult to look westward out over the pannes.

Then Brian spotted an adult bald eagle soaring in over the trees. We hoped it would flush the ducks, so we could get a good count on the waterfowl lurking unseen at the back of the marsh. But instead of hunting, the eagle simply perched on a pine bough. I thought the crows, who were still loitering like a bunch of delinquents, might decide to mob the bird, but apparently they couldn't be bothered. So we kind of forgot about the eagle until a few minutes later we noticed two red-tailed hawks aggressively chasing it away. They followed the eagle as it soared higher and higher above the trees, diving on the larger bird quite closely at times. Fellow birder Don Reimer, who visits the marsh almost daily, wondered aloud if this was the same pair of red-tails that had nested near the marsh last year. By the way they were acting, I'd say so. They flanked that eagle like two fighter jets, escorting it out of their air space.

Driving away about ten minutes later, we saw one of the hawks perched above a nearby field. When I pulled over so Brian could try to photograph it, it took flight over the pannes, its red tail shining in the afternoon sun.

Red tails a warning,
two hawks escort an eagle
out of their air space.