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.

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.)



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.



Eagles soar,
level with my vantage
on the bluff,
wheeling their way
down the Osage valley,
eying the water
in search of prey.

Turning back to the trail,
I pass through cedar,
sycamore and oak,
pausing within
a rare stand of maples.

I come here for that bluff,
those eagles,
but mostly for the maples,
as infrequent here as
eagles along the Niagara.

Bald eagles are present in New York, but not in the numbers seen in Missouri.
There are eagles’ nests along the Niagara River, near both ends of Grand Island,
and I’ve been fortunate to sight them on occasion while kayaking, but I’ve seen
more eagles in one morning along the Osage River than in all my time in Western
New York.

The maple is the state tree of New York, and it far outnumbers the oak trees in WNY.
In Missouri, oak trees are valued for their timber and the food they provide for wildlife.
Sugar maples are considered an invasive species and sometimes culled on state lands.
Since moving here, I miss the fiery color of maples in autumn.

Curious, It Seems

Curious It Seems

An eagle, bald,
along a narrow river,
late in the season.

Not circling near the bluffs,
hundreds of feet above
my kayak in the wider river.

Coursing along this stream,
just thirty feet above me,
pausing every quarter-mile.

Camera ready on my lap,
lens facing down,
I continue paddling.

Perched on a branch
twenty feet above the water,
it seems to wait for my arrival.

Its back to me,
it turns its head
to watch my approach.

Camera raised,
I try to frame,
turning as I drift past.

One hundred, then fifty feet away,
shutter rapidly firing,
I hope for one good shot.

Startled to realize
I have just passed beneath it,
I watch it take flight.

Twenty yards further downstream,
a mink on the riverbank reminds me
of the rarity of this day.