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Courtship Flights by Helen Chappell

By the time you read this, the bald eagles will be settled on their nests, patiently sitting on their eggs. Or getting ready to, putting together one of those giant messes of twigs, bits and pieces and even the odd T-shirt or bit of fishing net. If you’re lucky or interested enough to be in the right place at the right time, you may have seen the courtship flight of eagles. It’s a breathtaking sight, even for the most jaded among us. The mating pair soars high in the sky, catching the currents of air, wings spread as they face each other in free fall, locking their talons together. They mate for life. It’s such a sight of air and grace, words don’t really do it justice. You just have to see it. It’s ballet. I will say it makes mammal mating look dull and awkward. No wonder we dream of flying! If you get a chance, go down to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and check out the eagles. They have several nesting pairs now, and they’re absolutely spectacular to watch. Since their comeback from near extinction caused by DDT, the population has been steadily growing. Sighting an eagle is no longer a great rarity, as it was in my child-

hood, when the whole household and the neighbors all turned out with binoculars at the sighting of a single bird. That’s a good thing, because raptors are pretty cool birds. This winter, through no effort of my own, I was able to get up close and personal for a while with a trio of eagles. To absolutely no one’s surprise, someone had struck and killed a deer on one of the back roads I take into town. The carcass lay in a field beside the road, nicely preserved in the chill weather. It only took about a day for a pair of eagles to find the dead deer, and then they were all over it like a starving truck driver given a twopound T-bone steak. 9

April 2012 Tidewater Times  

April 2012 Tidewater Times

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