Birding the Long Trail

bald eagle

The sun was beating down mercilessly as I trudged down a particularly open part of the Appalachian Trail.  I would not call what I was doing hiking, frankly, it was more of an amble.  Sweat trickled down my my cheek.  Stopping to pull off my hat and mop my brow, I saw a through-hiker staggering under the weight of an enormous pack coming around the bend in the path.  As he approached, he slowed to pass the a few words of cheerful greeting.  He asked about water and shade.  I was thankfully able to reassure him that shade was close by and I had just dropped off 2 gallons of water by the kiosk.  The relief spread over his face.  His parting comment tossed over his shoulder was, “I’ve been seeing lots of birds.”  I shouted at his back, “Good for You!”

“I wish I was,” I muttered as I turned and pushed on.

Birding had been light at best. Yes, it was the doldrums of the day in the dead of summer, but still I had expected more than I was seeing.  As I made the turn around a pond, I looked up to see a kettle of swirling vultures.  Watching them I saw a flash of white.  In hawk-watching terms, these birds were bigger than pepper specks, maybe even large grained pepper, but you needed bins to see them.

There!  Another flash as the bird banked.  Hot diggity.  White at tail AND head.  There was a Bald Eagle slumming with the boys in the hood.  I stood there in the blazing heat losing him in the pale sky and haze; then catching sight again as the sun reflected off the white.

A group of 3 fully-loaded hikers and a dog strode toward me.  They stopped when they saw me standing in the middle of the path craning upward.

I looked over grinning.  “Ever seen an Eagle?”

None of them had.  They shrugged out of their packs and we stood sharing my bins watching majesty in the sky.  They were thrilled.  Heck, I was thrilled.  Watching eagles never gets old.  And sharing with nature-loving strangers is the best.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Birding the Long Trail

  1. Too cool. Eagles always make birding worth it!

  2. Wonderful story and sighting! I love the raptors, especially the eagle variety. Especially enjoyed the moment of sharing your bins…

  3. That’s the way I usually see them! It’s always exciting.

  4. What a great little moment in life.

  5. A friend of mine’s husband has been hiking the AT in stints for most of his adult life. His stories of the people and “trail angels” are entertaining – I had no idea of the unique culture that exists amongst hikers in general, and the AT in particular. Sounds like you had a sharp eye to spot the eagle. :-)

  6. nice post Bev – I find on the times when the birds are hiding from me, if i persist, i get a “nice one” that ends up making it worth it – no offense but nice to hear that experienced birders like yourself have some doldrums too :)
    Great pic too

    dan

  7. Great story Bev! I love sharing with other birders but sharing with someone who is not a birder and inducing that “awe” and excitement in them is truly priceless.

    We have all experienced the doldrums, but like Dan said, if you persist, you usually find something worth the effort.

    Thanks for sharing your moment in the sun. I got goose bumps when you “shared your bins watching majesty in the sky”

  8. You have the best adventures and are able to describe them so artfully that it feels like I’m there too! Hiking the App. Trail is on my bucket list…someday. I have to agree that seeing Bald Eagles is always a thrill – first time or 100th time!

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