Thursday, February 7, 2008


American Coots

This is the second year that my friend, Carroll, and I have taken a drive to northwest Alabama in search of bald eagles. They do nest there, and the last I recall reading about their numbers there were up to 50 couples residing in the wild, rolling multi-clayed cliftsides of Waterloo and Pickwick Lake. This area is extremely isolated and Pickwick Lake, part of the rambling Tennessee River system, has gravelly shores perfect for eagle picnics.

Carroll and I decided "on the fly" to stop first at the North Alabama Birding Trail lookout point off the Natchez Trace. There we observed the American Coot Convention body-surfing on roiling waves kicked up by gusting 20mph winds. Very cold gusting 20mph winds, I might add. Barges lumbered silently by while we watched the coots bob in the waves and a gaggle of what appeared to be scaups float way out in the river channel. However, there were no eagles to be spotted. Our patience spent, we placed our cameras back in the car and continued our journey toward Waterloo.
Exposed Sycamore Tree Roots - very cool!

Right before the bridge leading into Waterloo we hung a right onto Highway #1 and slowly drove north deeper into eagle nesting country. We knew of a nest there, and we also knew that recent storms hit this area hard. Checking the status of the nest was critical to us, but first...we had to find it. Eventually, we saw it high in its tree seemingly all together and whole. No eagles sat upon it, no eaglets called for food. We heard no eagles above us, we saw no eagles flying around or fishing. This was not good.

Walking around the roadway, we had to dodge huge lumber trucks and ducked when two small lear jets dipped low over the area. Odd. The water was way down and very muddy from the storms, and the chop was fierce. Fishing must not be good for eagles in these conditions. We ate our lunch in the protection of my car, watched yet more coots and the ubiquitious seagulls and herons....but no eagles. Driving through this area beside the water damage from storms is obvious. Trees have been leveled but left for the wildlife by watershed teams, as it should be. We entertained ourselves briefly walking along the shoreline but it was too chilly and windy to really enjoy the moment.

Again, our patience was stretched thin. Strong, frigid, gusting winds making our eyes tear and numbed our ear lobes and noses and fingers, but no eagles. Just coots. Lots and lots of coots. We bid a silent goodbye to the hidden eagles and turned back for the last stop of the day - Wilson Dam.

Wilson Dam has a beautiful park with walking trails on the low side of the dam. There, one can usually spy eagles perched high on the clifts watching for fishes below. Today, the waterfalls are terrific thanks to recent rains. We watched chickadees dart among the cliftside foliage. We saw cormorants and seagulls but once again we are disappointed by our eagles. No sightings. Nothing.

Carroll attended an Eagle Awareness Week jaunt several years ago, and this was our second try of these same areas. Sadly, every year we have been disappointed. Next year we are abandoning Waterloo and traveling to another chosen spot. We were so excited after reading Jodi's blog (Bloomingwriter) about her eagle spotting trip - we just knew this was going to be our year....but no.

However, what was lost in eagle sightings we gained in meditations. We had a lovely day together in the sunshine and winds and nature, and enjoyed long periods of companionable silences that only good friends can share. Road trips are my meditations, and good friends are balms to my soul. We had sandwiches while jammed in the front of my Subaru while listening to Dave Matthews Band, laughed at our red noses during lengthy walks on windswept, misty shorelines, and chuckled at our silliness calling out "Here Eagle, Eagle, Eagle!" to the heavens. ( no avail)

At the end of our trip we stood beside these beautiful, roaring waterfalls and tipped our faces into the icy mist that floated in the air, relishing our freedom and friendship. Road trips are my meditation.


Kayla said...

Mom, I am so confused. Hahaha. I still don't get this thing. So much harder than myspace. lol.

Love you.
Looks like you had a great time on this trip.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Ah, daughter of mine. I'm so pleased to see you here. This is grown-up blogging. Welcome! And have fun! Love you tons and tons, Mom

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I just love Sycamore trees. I think they are the most interesting beautiful tree. There is an also an Indian legend about them that I think is very special.

Your Eagles may have been out foraging. It might be too early for them to nest. They like to eat coots.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

I love the sycamores, too. They really speak of autumn to me - their white bark against cobalt blue skies. Ah, man. That the exposed roots of this sycamore have that same white mottled appearance was really a neat thing to see.

Coots in attendance in such abundance obviously meant they weren't worried about becoming some eagle's snack. Still, eagles are here - it just wasn't our turn to see them. I kept telling Carroll that we're "paying our dues." LOL Thanks for your nice comments, Lisa.


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