A dark shape passed over the afternoon sun, catching my eye as we drove down Stillwater Avenue in Orono. Leaning forward in the passenger seat, I watched the bird swoop over the nearby river and circle back.
My first thought is always “turkey vulture” when I see a large bird soaring high, but as the bird turned, I saw a flash of white.
“Look, an eagle,” I said, nudging my boyfriend Derek and pointing up.
“Where?” he replied. The bird was flying too high for him to see it without leaning forward.
“Right ahead of us,” I replied, fixing my camera settings. “Just keep driving straight.”
“Just tell me where to drive,” Derek said, understanding that I wanted to follow the eagle in hopes of getting a good photo.
“Ummm.. take a right,” I said, and he did, turning onto a side street. “OK he’s circling around. Just park here.”
I jumped out of the car, pointed my lens to the sky. The eagle flew in large circles over the river, likely looking for fish, and I was able to snap several photos before the bird disappeared. Through my 300mm lens, I could see the sun shining through the bird’s snowy white tail; its bright yellow feet tucked beneath its body; the dark feathers of its outstretched wings.
“You get some good pictures?” Derek asked when I ducked back into the car.
“I dunno. He was flying pretty high,” I replied, looking at the images on the screen of my camera. “Thanks.”
When you’re looking for wildlife in town, it’s valuable to have a wingman — someone who can take the wheel while your eyes wander to the trees and sky. Otherwise, I’d likely be pulled over for erratic driving, and then what would I say? “Sorry officer, I was chasing an eagle?”
The lesson here, wildlife watchers, is to get yourself a driver. Then, after you’ve led him on a wild goose chase (or eagle chase), buy him a Drumstick ice cream or something as payment.
With the ice melting on our rivers, you’ll have plenty of birds to see as they return to freshwater fishing grounds. In addition to eagles, count on seeing a variety of ducks and geese fishing in the icy waters of Maine’s many streams and rivers this time of year. Just take a drive.