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Close Encounter with an Eagle


Mark K
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Yesterday afternoon I was cycling in Juneau County, Wisconsin. I was travelling at a really good clip, down a deserted country road (County Rd M) through Juneau County Forest. the road was shrouded in pines and there was a deep culvert to my right that a stream ran through, parrallel to the road. Between the culvert and I was some fairly tall grass and vegetation. My profile was very low to maintain good aerodynamics and on roads that are smooth I can glide along almost totally silent. Point being, anything in the culvert couldn't see or hear me comming. Out of nowhere I saw a large black/brown bird come out of the culvert. It took off when I was about 20 feet behind it and by the time it rose to eye level, we were right next each other about 12-15 feet apart! It was an immature bald eagle, so close I could look him right in the eye and hear the wings flapping! For a brief time I think we were travelling at the same speed it looked suspended. In reality it lasted for probably a millisecond, but it was long enough to burn the image in my brain forever.

When I first caught a glimpse of it I thought it was a redtail hawk, but when the wingspan was just huge. I could not believe it. And what a fierce looking face. Then just as fast as it happened the eagle took a sharp right and dissappeared into a clearing in the woods.

I sat up on the bars and coasted for a few seconds in disbelief at what had just happened.

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It is truely amazing to spent time in the outdoors and watch an Eagle soar. I spent a few weekends at Keokuk, Ia. and up along the Mississippi River photographing Bald Eagles that were wintering in the area. The first time it was really cold and they were consintrated close to the open water of the Dam at Keokuk. Since it was Bald Eagle Days at the time I was able to venture out to the dam and photograph them feeding in the waters below the dam. They also roosted in the trees accross the river and looked like Crows in the trees as there were so many. I have seen a good number of them down this way this winter also. That had to be a rear eye opening experience Mark.

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Wow...cool experience.

 

It's amazing how the birds of prey have rebounded in the last 10-15 years. I'm surprized when I don't see an osprey on my Kish floats. And you can't drive five miles on any rural highway without seeing a redtail on a power pole.

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Bald eagles are such a beautiful majestic bird, especially up close. I just came back from fishing in the northwoods and I had a cool bald eagle close encounter that I wanted to share. I was fishing on a largemouth/bluegill lake with my father and the bass fishing was kind of slow. I switched my 2nd rod over to a bobber and small hair jig to fish for some of the big bluegills I saw along the shore. The bluegills were just killing this hair jig. As I was reeling one in, a largemouth in the 20-22" range follows my bluegill up to the canoe and engulfs it. I was only using a small hair jig so there was no way I was going to land this bass. The bass held on for a long time and finally released the bluegill right at the canoe. I let the 5" bluegill go but it was doing the death twitch at the top of the water surface after being in this basses mouth. As our canoe drifted away I noticed a mature bald eagle leave its pearch on the tree and swoop down low right over our canoe and over the bluegill. On the 2nd pass the eagle extended it talons grabed the fish and flew it back to the nest. In a span of 5 minutes I had 2 very visual wildlife experiences I will never forget.

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Great story Paul.

The thing to do when that happens is to start using bluegills as bass bait, if legal.

Not to change gears...But, your story brings up something that happened to me when I firsts got really serious about fishing in '84-85. I was fishing that little drainage on the north side of Tampier Lake. Not the actual lake just east of there. Caught lots of nice bluegills. One such critter got deep hooked. Having read a whole bunch of stuff about catch and release I clipped the line and released the bluegill. About 5 minutes later it was doing the death dance. A heron showed up and downed it. A few feet from me. Before I had time to react. Bluegill tag end of mono hook and all. I want to think it passed the hook and all, but reallistic thinking tells me I killed a Great Blue Heron.

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Guest Frank

I think our forefathers were right on when they made the eagle our symbol. They are a fierce looking bird up close. As for the heron Mark the bird is probably ok. I don't think you killed it.

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I hope so Frank, but I doubt it. A few years ago in the Florida Keys I visited a sanctuary for wounded wild birds, mainly egrets, herons and spoonbills. It's a very cool place a must visit for nature geeks. I got some awesome shots there. Anyway, they had a whole bunch of displays with x-rays of dead birds with tackle in their gullets. I can't imagine a bird passing a hook.

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