Descent of Dinosaurs

6

I was driving from Clarksville to Albany downtown via the Slingerlands by-pass today.  As I came into the first of the four crazy round-a-bouts, I looked up and saw two large birds circling.  I wondered what interesting carcass the vultures had discovered today.  But as I looked more closely these birds had a flat line to their wings – no dihedral as the vultures do.  As I was taking this in, they both banked and their white heads and tails flashed in the sunlight.  Eagles!  Bald eagles!  A sharp intake of breath.  I breathed the word aloud:  “Eagles!”  And watched as they caught the thermals and vanished towards the east.  Came quite too close to the car in front of my and drew my attention back to my driving.  But the eagles have stayed with me all day, a really bright light.

I have seen bald eagles before but mostly they have been standing on the ground or roosting in the trees.  The only ones I remember seeing in flight are the juveniles I’ve seen around Schodack Island when I’ve been paddling on the Hudson.  They are glorious, but not nearly so majestic as these fully feathered adults.  Eagles!

The first time I went to the southwest, I saw golden eagles over the desert outside of Tucson.  A pair in a mating dance.  They grasp each others talons and fall towards the earth, spinning.  I didn’t know until long afterwards that not many people get the privilege to see that beautiful ritual.

On the same trip while sitting out in the rocks in the Sonora I also saw a parrot.  A green bird flushed from some bushes.  I researched it and researched it, but no parrots live in that part of the southwest, and no parrots anywhere look quite like this bird, that flew right at me.  And parrots are the only green birds.  I must have seen Quetzalcoatl. . .

Three of the times I have been to the Grand Canyon, I have seen the California condors floating on the thermals.  They are huge birds, and twice I’ve been close enough to see the number tags on their wings, that identify each individual bird.  The most moving time, I was at Skeleton Point on the South Kaibab Trail, sitting on the edge with my feet dangling, having my lunch and looking down at the Colorado River, a few thousand feet down.  A raven was sitting next to me, just out of reach, but trying to filch my sausage and cheese.  I had been watching the thieving raven, and when I turned back to the Canyon, the condor floated up a thermal right in front of me.  Felt like I could touch it, although it was probably more than 100 feet away.  It floated up and then down and then the winds drew it around a butte and out of sight.

When I visited Peru, I saw Peruvian eagles flying above Ollantaytambo, and one sitting on a rock on the high plateau in the Cordierra Vilcabambo on a hike to Huchoy Cosco.  The eagle settled down somewhere above 13,000 feet and surveyed the world below, a series of small lakes in the shadows of the Cordierra.  A couple of days later, a vendor outside of the ruins on Pisac mountain gave me a feather from one.

One summer day, one of my cats was fixated on something in the attic.  He was like a pointer dog at one of the windows.  On close look, a screech owl was caught between the storm window and the inside window.  No way to know how long it had been there, but it was feisty.  With great caution I pulled aside the broken storm window to give the owl room to escape.  I felt his wings, his breast and his feet as he understood he was free, stepped onto my hand and flew out the window.

Birds are the most amazing creatures.  Dinosaurs here and now.  Feathers!  Oh, the wonders of those from the giant wing feathers of the turkey to the tiny fluffs of down on a winter goose or duck.  They come in such wonderful colors and patterns.  Birds were a wonderful part of today.  Just before the sun went down on the farm this evening, a white throated sparrow landed in the trellis next to me.  The seasons have truly changed, as they don’t live here in the summer time. . .

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