Fly like a (bald) eagle.

Bald eagle near Scappoose, OR. Photo R0Ng

Thursday, January 17th. Another crisp yet brilliantly sunny winter day in Portland. I wouldn’t say that the “cold snap” is done, as nighttime temps have still been dipping below freezing. (This is enough to constitute “cold snap” in Portland.) But there has been a “thaw” as daytime highs are creeping into the 40’s F (4-10C.) In short, great outdoor weather for January.

It so happened I needed to be outdoors on Thursday in order to do the “pre-ride” for the Palm Tree Ride. Some rides I’ve done so many times I may not bother checking the routing before I lead the ride.* But the Palm Tree Ride gets a new routing each year, to keep it interesting for repeat participants and more importantly myself. I should have done the pre-ride ride before now, but a perfect conspiracy of work, laziness, business, stress, and finally sickness kept me from doing it until two days before the ride itself. What counts is that I’m doing it.

And man, did it feel great to be outside on a bike again. (Besides the usual commuting-errands run.) My cold had “broke” so I was able to enjoy riding around and checking out stuff. As my pre-ride progressed, I got more and more excited for the ride itself. This is always a good thing.

Anyways, inevitably I found my way to one of my favorite spots in Portland: the Willamette Bluffs in North Portland. Obviously I’d stop to take some glamour shots of the Crested Butte on Rivendell Ridge, dead madrona and all.

While hanging out on the Ridge, I heard a interesting bird squak from high above me. I looked up and saw what appeared to be two rather large birds in a tall Douglas fir. Could they be? Well, let me check. But how? I haven’t gotten a decent standalone camera yet, and the camera on my smart phone has a very weak zoom. But thankfully I was carrying something very useful for this situation:

Binoculars, yep. I got a gift card to REI and bought these small and inexpensive Brunton binoculars, to use in moments just like this. So I got it out, looked into the tree, and spotted TWO bald eagles.

I’m no bird expert, but as an American I’ve been inundated with images of our national bird since an early age, and bald eagles are pretty distinctive looking birds, so I’m pretty sure of what I saw. The birds perched high in the tree for a few minutes, took off, flew around, and then nested in the adjacent Doug fir (but out of sight.)

There was another bird-watcher type gentleman also on the Ridge, who confirmed what I saw and said he’s seen a few bald eagles up by Smith and Bybee Lakes. Now the lakes are much more bald eagle habitat with their mix of water and trees. But seeing the eagles in the city proper, closer to homes and people and further from natural areas, is a bigger deal. The gentlemen speculated they might be building a nest in the area, which would be very cool. (Two eagles together like that, you have to assume they are a mating pair.)

It’s pretty exhilarating to think about the comeback of bald eagles. Fifty years ago they were on the verge of extinction in the US** due to a number of reasons, a big one being DDT. Now they are off the Endangered Species list and can be found all over the US. But will they become another urban bird in the city? I hope so, because we all know I love hanging out with bald eagles.

At the National Eagle Center, Wabasha, MN

*Checking your route is Rule #1 in the Bike Fun Handbook. But I can bend that rule, since I wrote the book.
**Yes, I know technically the term I should use is extirpation, thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Fly like a (bald) eagle.

  1. You know what's funny? James and I went on this rad canoe trip with the Willamette River Keepers on Sat (which is why I couldn't come learn about palm trees and other fun things!:) and we ALSO saw two bald eagles! Maybe the same ones, since they were chillin along the industrial wasteland kind of by Swan Island and North Portland. Awesome! -stasia

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