It was a wild day of bird photography.
I had received a call from my buddy Bob about an eagles nest near his home in the thumb area of Michigan. He hadn't seen it himself of course, but his friend had given him rough directions to the location. Bob's enthusiastic description of the nest did not suffer for dramatic detail.
"Dave, it looks like a bathtub up in the top of the tree and baby eagles are standing on the edge of the nest!"
He was skillfully pushing all of my hot buttons so off I went, my minds eye filling in all the details Bob may have missed. After an hours drive on a bright morning, I made a right at the restaurant, went two miles more to a freshly paved road, made another right, than further to the second curve. I was there, but where was the nest? Slowly I made my way up and down the road scanning the tree line that skirted the river and way off, about a thousand yards across a freshly plowed field, was the rumored nest. There was also that agonizing sign we all know so well, Private Property-No Trespassing.
I hatched a plan. There was a slice of public land up stream that provided access to the river. Would it be possible to walk the river edge and gain a decent vantage point? I found a deer trail through the brush down the high bank and with camera in hand I trudged off, carefully calculating every foot fall. Four steps down, disaster struck. My feet went out from under me and I was instantly sliding down the slick incline feet first, my camera held high. It was a fast thirty foot trip to the rivers edge my bottom frosted thick with mud like a good chocolate cake. The lack of friction and the power of gravity notwithstanding, my heals caught the rocky edge and saved me from a dunking. The river was deep and cold, the clay bottom treacherous. This was a stupid plan, there was no walking this river. I scuttled back to my car, a muddy frustrated mess, clutching bushes in one hand for support and the unscathed camera in the other.
My next plan involved a hike through the woods on the opposite side of the river. I found a private campground that I thought wouldn't be to far from the nest site and the folks there gave me permission to walk their property and that of the adjoining hunt club. Off I went again.
A long hour later I emerged from the woods and onto a country road my legs scratched and itching from a thousand tiny scrapes with the local plant life. I had seen the nest tantalizing close, just around next river bend but here again I was blocked by more farms and no trespassing signs.
What did I have to lose? I walked up the long driveway to an immaculate farmhouse imagining how my muddy clothes looked hung on a sun burnt, bleeding body. An elderly lady came to the door and I began to explain my plight, soon her husband joined us.
What would you have done if you were a couple of old timers confronted with such a person?
Yeah, I'm from Detroit. I would have straightened my back and Ma would have gone for the gun and called the law in one swift motion.
did was; hobble out to the barn, (Pa was recovering from a less than satisfactory hip operation), get a electrically driven two seater cart and drive my ragged butt back to the eagles nest that hid deep on their property.
The Sun was to high and bright for bird photography, though the adult eagles swung through the air magnificently just overhead.
Pa left me to enjoy the ambiance alone. I took a number of shots, moved position, and clicked some more. I could see no fledglings. In the frenzy I reached for my glasses to check exposure. They were gone! Good grief. I looked for an hour over the rough riverbank with that sinking certainty that the search would be in vain. I walked back to the farm house to check the four wheeler. Nothing there. After walking the property yet again, my head bent down scanning the ground for eyeglass frames and not into the sky for eagles, I gave up. Pa volunteered to give my a lift back to my car, Ma asked me if I'd checked my pockets in that sweet condescending way.
"Yes, a hundred times."
I was wearing camo cargo shorts with a hundred pockets and I patted them all to illustrate how diligently I had searched. My hand stopped suddenly on a little side pocket... oh my goodness. I reached in and pulled out my glasses. Pa thought this was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He put his eighty-five year old arm around my shoulder and with a hearty, sympathetic laugh said, "See Son? The mind does go first." And then he added,
"Welcome to my world!"
Taking leave of my new friends I drove North to Fish Point Reserve and low and behold, there amongst the reeds was a rare sight for Michigan, a White-faced Ibis. A perfect sun shown on a patient subject. I basicly rolled down the car window and started shooting. No blood, sweat, or tears involved.
A grand end to a wild day!
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