Close Encounter ~ haibun

Close Encounter

As I paddle down the narrow river, the banks nearly hugging me, I spy a large bird on a tree branch over the water. Its markings indistinct at this distance, I wonder if it could be a juvenile Bald Eagle. Drifting downstream, I decide it is an eagle when it drops from the branch into the water, just a hundred feet ahead of me.

Landing in shallow water, it thrashes and hops to the shore, a fifteen-inch fish firmly in its grasp. It finally drops the fish and settles upon the it as I drift closer, just fifteen feet from shore. Debating between feasting on its catch and seeking safer haven, the eagle flies to a low branch of the next tree downstream. Spreading its wings and shaking the water off of its feathers, it settles in to watch me drift by, just twenty feet directly directly below, the perfect conclusion to this close encounter.

sycamore
on a riverbank
summer breeze

This haibun is my response to Haibun Monday 2-1-21: Eagle, the prompt form Frank Tassone at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, which is to write a haibun that references to the Eagle.  I first recounted this incident with my poem Rapt, in September 2016.

Heartbeat on Wing

Heartbeat on Wing

Floating on the river, tree-lined
stream, really, far shore just sixty feet away,
as bald eagle, far upstream, leaves its perch.
Each wing beat bringing it closer, regal profile
passing within fifty feet. Its graceful exit
over, held as a lasting impression.

The image, above, is the crop of a frame of video taken on the Moreau River, Missouri, October 4, 2019. My kayak was resting on an underwater ledge, immediately to the left of the angled rock (photo below). I was stable and partially shielded from view, but framing and focus at full zoom were hard to maintain, especially as I panned to track its approach and passing. The angled rock likely is broken from a nearby overhanging ledge that has numerous rocks lying in the water below. (These images also are cropped from frames of the same video.)

Kayaking Sights

Kayaking Sights

Back in March 2017, I posted a blog (with a video) about kayaking monthly, explaining how I make the videos to post on Facebook as a way to stay connected to my family in Ohio and Western New York. Pat R. (jazzytower/thoughts and entanglements) suggested a photo blog showing some of the wildlife and sights that I see. I’ve finally organized my kayaking photos (which meant checking a LOT of folders on my hard drives – I haven’t been as organized as I should be) and here is that blog, fourteen months later!

(Clicking on each photo will open a tab with a larger view.)

I’ll start with a photo from Western New York. Before moving to Missouri, I took one last long paddle upstream on a section of Ellicott Creek that I hadn’t seen before from the water. It passes through the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) – actually in a suburb, Amherst. I’m glad that I did, because I took one of my favorite photos on that creek – with my cellphone!

Stream Serenity

Since moving to Missouri, I’ve continued to stay mostly in small streams and rivers. If I launch in the Missouri, I would need to make a “round trip,” paddling forever against the current. Paddling alone, I can’t leave one car at the exit point and take my kayak to a launch point upstream. I’ve paddled into the Missouri River and gone upstream a short distance (tough, against the current) to drift/paddle back downstream to the stream I started in, but that’s it. To control the buildup of silt in the Missouri (and to control bank erosion) the Army Corp of Engineers constructs stone wing dams. Sometimes a couple hundred feet long, they angle from the shore to direct the current. Even with these, dredging to maintain a channel is a year-round project.

Wing Dam.jpg

Occasionally, I will paddle on the Osage River. It’s half as wide as the Missouri, and the current is mild enough that I can paddle two to four miles upstream without any problem. I don’t often paddle late in the day, but this sunset on the Osage is one of my favorite photos. The farm field beyond the trees was covered in smoke (which drifted across the river at times) from a controlled burn.

Forest Afire

The Osage River and many of the other rivers and smaller streams have sections that run right next to tall limestone bluffs. Missouri is known for its caves, so it’s not unusual to see small caves in those bluffs.

Bluff Caves

Under Cover

I can count on seeing wildlife on most river paddles. Great blue herons, turtles and turkey vultures are three creatures I see nearly every time (except December on into March for turtles and herons).

Heron Lookout

Terrapin Camo

Embracing the Wind

A green heron is much smaller than a great blue heron, about the size of a crow.

Green Heron

I may not see bald eagles soaring over the smaller streams as often as I do over the Missouri and the Osage, but I’m more likely to see one perched closer to the water of those streams.

Regal Pose.jpg

This juvenile bald eagle (below) sat on a branch twenty-five feet above a stream, and dropped into the water just ahead of me to catch a catfish in shallow water, struggling to get it to shore.

Fisher_collage

Fisher.jpg

And finally, some creatures that I see while kayaking are a little more fantastic than others.

Thirst Quencher

Ken G.

Rapt

Rapt

In a slipstream
almost like a dream
towering sycamore
overhead a bird of lore
watches, waits as I drift by
my gaze held high
not daring to shift
or lift
my paddle, I raise my lens
my friends
need to witness
the beauty of this
scene that plays out
no doubt
of the beauty
there before me

While I was kayaking this week, a juvenile Bald Eagle sat overhead in a sycamore. As I reached for my camera, it dropped into the water and snatched a fish. It floundered the short distance to the shore, where it dug into its meal. As I came even with it in the water, it flew to the next tree downstream to dry its feathers and watch me drift by.