Thursday, December 29, 2011

You Want Escargot With That?

The Turnip Truck is facing the White River in Cotter, Arkansas, but it could really be any river.  My good friends and neighbors have a bird seed feeder stationed between our two rigs.  This is a bird watching paradise and the volume of birds feeding has forced me to learn the difference between a finch and a crow.

Just across the river high up in an old oak tree is the nest or aerie for other fishing buddies, two beautiful bald eagles. The large nest is isolated high above a cattle farm, and too far from view to determine the exact count of eaglets.   The mother's milk for these young eaglets is a varied selection of trout and from the number of observed flights and taloned dives, there are some hungry beaks in their river front home.

Curious, I decided to study up on eagles. Eagles mate for life.  However if left alone the surviving eagle is said to quickly find another mate.  Kind of like humans, this same lifestyle trait  manifests itself in the same way in Florida's assisted living communities and mobile home parks.  You know the scene, the widow from four double wides away,  "I'm so sorry to hear of your wife's passing, we all loved her so much. Would you like some pie?"

Male eagles reach maturity around the age of four or five, where human males struggle with maybe never reaching maturity at all.   Eagles do not mate every year which does confirm that female eagles get headaches, too.  Male and female eagles look alike.  The guideline for determining the gender of an eagle is measuring the distance between the top of the beak to the chin. Females display a greater distance in the height of their beaks.  Males are said to become fixated upon big beaks. Beak envy is a important big fee generator in the practice of psychiatric medicine with eagles.

The eagle's grocery store of choice is obvious here, it is the river.  Trout fishermen and eagles love to see a bug hatch take place.  During an emergence, rather than remaining hunkered down on the bottom, the trout begin a process of coming up, first for the emergers just below the surface,  and then feeding upon the meniscus trapped insects as the bug's birthdays are determined.

For trout fishers, hatches present opportunities that are truly satisfying.  Laying out a fifty foot cast with a self-fashioned fly attached to a perfectly extended tippet  that lands lightly upon the water's surface four inches in front of a rising trout is a checkmate type move. Seeing the multicolored trout's bone white mouth open to inhale the tiny concoction of hairs and feathers is a tingling bonus. The senses ignite with the first splash of the take.  A bit melodramatic, yes, but far better than watching the semi-finals of American Idol.

Even greater than a fly fisher's own catch is being in the water and observing the take of a soaring eagle.

"Darlin'  the trout are talon deep, and I think I'll go to the store - need anything?"

The eagle begins a predator drone like circle high above the river, suddenly a few strong wing flaps propel him into a shadowless power glide until the target is achieved, wings turn up, talons extend and a brown trout is purchased at the river delicatessen.

"You want escargot with that?"

Just recently, I received one of those internet links with a live web camera poised above a Mr. and Mrs. Eagles nest containing triplets.  Below the live screen the typical comment was posted,  "Awww, they're so cute."  Muir like, I sent it along to my  list of naturalist buddies, err, make that cynical friends.  I received a lot of  "gee, thanks," and the same, "Awww, they're so cute."  One friend was quick to respond, "Yeah, we had one of those live cams around here a year or so ago, thousands watched it, even got T.V. coverage, until one day the screen went blank. The live cam was turned off the day hundreds of mothers called in  screaming, "Oh the humanity!"   Mr. Eagle decided enough fish for awhile … today it'll be Tex-Mex,  and he proceeded to deliver a rhinestone collared  chihuahua to his hungry eaglets.

 " You want salsa or guacamole with that?"

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