After 23 years of vacationing in the same location on the Maine coast, this summer my family did something they’ve never done before.
My sister, son and I went for a walk on the stony beach at low tide and expected to see the usual: mussels, clams, oysters, seaweed, snails, seagulls, starfish. I never expected to see a bald eagle hooked high in a pine tree, hanging upside down on one leg, flapping its huge wings in a desperate effort to free itself.
We had a sudden stinging feeling that something had to be done. But what? we were far away. Bird easily he was 30 feet tall. Instinctively, we each picked up our phones and started searching. I don’t remember the search term you entered. It was probably some sort of “nearby wildlife reserve” but our location was nowhere near any size town.
These words raised the Fish and Game Commission. Reassured that someone had answered, I explained the details along with the nearest roads and landmarks, wondering how they would find us. We were a long way from our cottage. My son had the peace of mind to provide his GPS coordinates from his cell phone. “We’re going out,” Brian said. Okay then. But when will it be? And all the while the tide was creeping in.
To my surprise, Brian and another lifeguard, Roy, showed up within 30 minutes. Shortly after, members of the local fire department rushed to the beach with a “climbing arborist” to join them. (A new term to me.) The arborist climbed onto the branch where the eagle was hanging, attached the rope, cut the branch, and the team lowered the bird to the ground.
While that was being accomplished, Roy was in touch with a local wildlife rehabilitator on the phone. As soon as the birds were crated, they were taken to waiting trucks and chased away. Of course I was worried about the birds, but I felt a great sense of relief. I didn’t know if I could save the eagle, but I did what I could. It was also incredibly reassuring to see so many people coming to help one wild creature.
The next day Brian texted us to let us know the bird had to be euthanized. But that’s not all. As the guards were traveling down a dirt lane to get to the beach, they encountered another eagle struggling and exhibiting unusual behavior. And on the beach near the tree where they found the first, they spotted a third bird flapping the ground in a kind of bush. I noticed they were there, but they were all hit by something.
Observers considered the possibility. Lead poisoning from hunting bullets? Hunting season is just a few months away. bird-flu? If the symptoms were incorrect, why did three birds become infected at exactly the same time? What’s the most plausible answer? Rodenticide. Her mother eagle may have brought infected rats and rats to her own offspring and unknowingly poisoned them.
I know this isn’t a typical topic for a gardening column, but my experience with the eagle has made me think differently about the choices we make and their potential ramifications, so sharing That everyday decisions can extend beyond us in ways that would leave us unsatisfied if we witnessed the consequences. When I met that eagle, my view of things changed. Not comfortable, but somehow enhanced. I wonder where it will lead me.
Pam Baxter is an avid organic gardener living in Kimberton. Please email us directly at email@example.com or email us at PO Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Share your gardening stories on his Facebook for ‘Chester County Roots’. Pam’s nature-related books for children and families are available on Amazon at her Amazon.com/author/pamelabaxter.