Yesterday's delivery run was punctuated by an unprecedented encounter. Just before 11 a.m., along a lightly developed commercial corridor just north of the Sanford city limits, a mature adult bald eagle swooped down onto the four lane thoroughfare of US Hwy 15-501/ NC Hwy 87 and retrieved a road-killed gray squirrel from the roadway, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic.
By the time I disengaged my iPhone from its charger, the magnificent bird had disappeared beyond a copse of towering pines, presumably seeking a bit more privacy before consuming its "prey."
Inspired by the encounter, I grabbed my camera at lunch and made the short drive up US 1 to Everett B. Jordan Dam, hoping to capture a few images to accompany this post. As though awaiting my arrival, an adult bald eagle was soaring high above the upper parking lot.
A white-headed adult and two juveniles were ensconced in a large sweet gum tree along the river below the dam. Two other juveniles perched nearby.
All were impressive creatures, sporting the massive bill unique to their clan, cloaked in varied combinations of dark brown and white feathers. As I watched quietly from the shadows of the opposite bank, first one, then another, took flight.
I caught myself holding my breath as they engaged in several seconds of synchronized aerobatics before finding new perches further down my side of the river.
Wild and free, apex predators, soaring unrivaled across the breadth of the heavens, swooping down upon the rushing waters to take their sustenance... evocative emblem of a vast and powerful empire.
Extirpated from the fishing grounds, no more nest trees, victimized by DDT, critically endangered species... pathetic victim of ignorance, carelessness and greed.
Awareness, education, habitat protection, environmental regulation...populations recovering, historic range returning.
What next, I wonder...