Back to the point on Tuesday, a breath of fresh air to bring in the new year. The birds were waiting for me. The tide was out when I stepped out of the truck, and I clambered straight out across the rocks with my eye on a great blue heron perched just off the waterline. But to my left another dark shape caught my attention - an immature bald eagle waiting in the driftwood, standing over the carcass of the seal I spotted the other day. I weighed my options - who could I sneak up on first? The heron seemed settled, and I know from experience they can stand for seemingly infinite periods, waiting for a fish to come within the grasp of that long sharp beak. The eagle though, was a flight risk, literally.
Decided, I tucked back along the high tide line, out of sight of the bird of prey for the moment. I stepped from rock to rock, trying to avoid any loud noises that would alert him to my approach. As I came around the curve of the shoreline I spotted his dark head poking up from the driftwood. I ducked down a bit, navigating through the jumble of washed up logs and breakwater boulders until there was nowhere left to hide and I was about 40 feet off. The eagle knew I was there, although it wasn't inclined to acknowledge me in any way. I snapped a few shots. Scooched to the next boulder. Snapped a few more. Other folks out for their New Year's constitutional were noting my progress and politely gave me and the eagle a wide berth. I checked on the heron, down at the water's edge. A woman was ambling toward it, her camera held up to shoot photos. She continued her steady forward progress until the heron upset and flew off down the coast, and I wrinkled my nose. Yes, it could easily be argued she and I were doing the exact same thing. But her clumsy approach had me feeling unjustly superior, and I was disappointed my chance at shooting the heron was gone.
The eagle, though, was unperturbed. I slipped to the next rock, then the next. It let out a squawk and ruffled its feathers, and then surprised me by actually hopping along the driftwood toward me. The dead seal was between us, although much closer to him, and the bird was ready for another meal. The eagle flapped his wings for balance as it hopped from log to log and then to its prize. I wedged myself between two rocks, a large boulder serving half as blind and half as tripod, and suddenly there was only 20 feet between us. The bird set to work, tearing at the blubber and looking up every few bites to check for other eagles. For the most part it didn't seem concerned with me. After it ate, the eagle perched on a log and wiped his beak clean.
A little old lady came determinedly along the beach, spotting me only as she came up just beside me. It took her a moment to follow my pointing to the feathered beast right in front of us. She smiled, listened politely as I spouted some eagle trivia, and then proceeded on her route along the high tide line. The eagle waited as she closed in, then spread its impressive wingspan and swooped off and away. Content, I unfolded from my own perch and headed down the beach for a walk.