Monday, May 09, 2005

Fly Like An Eagle

Note to Self:
When theWife tells me to stay in the car, I should stay in the car.

As most bmg readers are aware, theWife and I are having a house built near Cleveland. When our developer originally showed us what lots would be available for theHouse, we asked how many houses would end up being built near us. The developer explained that there were limitations to where they could build in the area.

The first limitation is family owned property. Directly behind our house sits approximately 20 acres of land that is owned and maintained by a family who has occupied the area for many, many years. The developer could not guarantee that this family will not someday sell their land, however, the addition of two new houses in the last few years, on their property, for their family members, is a good sign that our view will remain in tact for years to come.

The second limitation to their development is a Metroparks area. Behind our house, out to the left is approximately 310 acres of land that is owned and maintained by the County Metroparks system. Anyone who is from Cleveland knows that the Metroparks are areas of land that are restricted to nature and wildlife. People are allowed to walk and drive through these areas to observe nature, but the Metroparks are otherwise untouched by man.

Their third and last limitation happens to be a bald eagle's nest located just down the street from our house, that is, if the street were allowed to continue straight in that direction. Since the bald eagle is an endangered species, it's nest and the surrounding area are protected from development as well. This means that in three directions from theHouse, no development can take place, at least for now.

The first two areas I have spoken of are easily visible from the view that is afforded to us by our morning room. Until this most recent trip for the pre-drywall inspection, however, I had not personally seen the eagle's nest as it is blocked from view by trees. Yesterday, I decided that I would go out that way to see exactly how far the nest was from theHouse and snap off a few pictures to show theWife and kids, who were not able to make this trip with me. I found the nest easily and did manage to get some pictures. Little did I know I was going to get a whole lot more.

On my way out to theHouse, I called theWife and told her of my plans. She told me that since finding out we were going to have a bald eagle for a neighbor, she has read up on the endangered species. She said I could take as many pictures as I wanted, as long as I didn't get too close and stayed in the car. She then told me that bald eagles are so heavy that they normally don't fly too far from their nest. She also told me that because of their immense weight that they tire very easily. Give these two factors, if an eagle did happen to fly too far away from its nest, it may lack the energy to make the return flight. I, unfortunately, did not take her good advice.

When I arrived at what will soon be the end of my street, there were still trees blocking the view of where I was told the nest would be. Don't you see, I had to get out of the car if I were to be able to even catch a glimpse of the nest's location? I walked in the opposite direction of the trees, though, until I finally could see the nest. But, I was just too far away to get any kind of a decent picture, so I walked a little bit closer. As I drew closer and closer, I could feel the nest drawing me in. I was engrossed in the electricity I felt in my chest. I had to get just a little closer and then I would be able to get a good picture. I was approximately halfway between the nest and my rental car when I realized that there was a head sticking out of the nest. It wasn't that big though, nor was it white like a bald eagle's head should be.

The eagle's head was neither big nor white because it was not the adult eagle that I hoped to see. It was a baby.

Fifty feet in front of me was a dirt road. Obviously people had been out this way before, and the eagle did not leave because of their presence, surely that must be a safe distance for me to get a better picture. I kept walking closer. As I reached the road, I saw the momma eagle. She flew from somewhere beneath the nest, up to the nest. I should have stopped moving at that very moment, but I couldn't help it, I kept inching forward. My whole body was now pulsing with the excitement of getting this picture.

Finally, after creeping forward a few more feet, I forced myself to stop. I held my camera up to take a picture. At that very moment, momma eagle swooped down out of her nest and I snapped off a picture. I was readying myself for another picture, when I came to a rather important realization:

This huge bird, this national treasure, this endangered species was heading right for me. She was attacking.

She swooped down out of her nest and was right on level with my head. I turned and started to run as fast as my out-of-shape legs could run, but she was gaining ground quickly on me. I continued to run away from her nest, all the while feeling much like Vern running from the train while crossing the bridge in "Stand By Me".

"I'm dead, I'm dead", is all I could think. I looked back at my impending doom to see her rise, ten feet above my head and just hover there, directly above me. I started to run in a zigzag pattern, making sure my direction was constantly away from her nest, thinking she was ready to drop and grab onto me with her huge talons like I was a fish to feed to her baby. Then, after I'd say a 200-yard chase, it finally happened.

She dropped her altitude slightly and swooped down in front of me. Then up she went, back to the tree line leaving me to run the remaining 100 yards or so back to the car. With my chest ready to explode, and my legs ready to collapse, I jumped into the car and drove back up the street to theHouse. There I called theWife, regained my breath and some of my sanity and started piecing together what had just happened.

After finally composing myself, I left theHouse and drove over to the Metroparks. The park ranger was there, so I asked him more about the bald eagle. He told me that normally, the eagle flies up high and screeches at people to warn them away from her nest. He was surprised to hear my story and asked me if the eagle screeched at all while she pursued me. When I told him that she had not, he instructed me that when an eagle screeches, she is warning off, but if she is silent, she is attacking.

So, there you have it. I now have something for my "Things I've done that you most likely have not" list; being attacked by a national treasure.

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