Feb 2016: Eagle Watch

What’s more American than a bald eagle? That is, aside from “being great,” as Donald Trump would say. Featured on the national emblem of the United States of America (with its wings spread and its talons impossibly clutching a bundle of arrows and an olive branch — mixed messages, for sure) I look at the bird most every day.

But rarely do I see the bald eagle actually flying.

Outdoorsman Steve Fagin solved that problem the other week when he invited me to join him for a kayaking excursion on the lower Connecticut River, which is a nesting area in mid-winter for migratory bald eagles that fly south to fish in the open water.

“Open water” meaning water not frozen solid with ice.

That didn’t mean we didn’t still encounter lots of ice on the River, which threatened to cut our voyage short and potentially sink the thin-hulled kayak of Steve’s friend Phil Warner, as he wrote in a story for The Day:

As the creek narrowed ice closed in from both shores, and eventually blocked our route. We could see where the Jet Skis had plowed through, but broken slabs jammed back together.

“I feel like Shackleton,” Phil said, referring to the 20th century Antarctic explorer whose vessel, the Endurance, was trapped and crushed by sea ice before all hands eventually were rescued in one of history’s greatest survival tales.

It wouldn’t have been much of a hardship for us to turn around, but we weren’t about to admit defeat.

“Come on,” I called to Steve Kurczy, paddling in the bow. “Ramming speed!”

Crunch! Our paddles flailing we managed to plow through 2-inch-thick ice for about 10 feet before grinding to a halt.

“Again!”

I was snapping photos the whole day. Here’s a series of a bald eagle taking off over the Connecticut River as we approached.

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