My first glimpse of a bald eagle in Louisiana took place when I was just a kid and the one I saw was sitting on a nest made of a huge pile of sticks and branches high up in a big pine tree not far from my home in Goldonna. Someone had alerted my dad to the eagle nest and he took my brother, sister and me to the piney woods to see it. Unfortunately, too many other people knew about the nest and all the activity caused the birds to abandon the nest.
According to officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), the Goldonna eagle and just about all the others around the state disappeared. In the early 1970s, only seven nests were counted across the entire state. Not only had the birds disappeared in our state, the same thing was happening across the United States. The culprit responsible for the vanishing eagles was a pesticide we know as DDT.
The pesticide did a great job of controlling nuisance insects on crops. Many of the DDT- infested insects made their way into waterways where they were eaten by small fish, which were eaten by larger fish, which just happens to be a bald eagle’s main diet.
As eagles caught and ate fish, the DDT came with the eagle’s meal with the result being an increasing difficulty of the birds to absorb calcium, the absence of which made the eggs of nesting eagles thin. As a result, eggs were broken before they hatched.
Fortunately, the use of DDT was outlawed in the United States in 1972 and a slow but steady recovery began.
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to spot eagles at inopportune times. I’m not looking for them but – BAM – there’s an eagle.
I was headed to my favorite fishing pond one morning several years ago. As I turned off the highway down the road to the pond, something caught my eye sitting in a tall pine. I saw the telltale white head of a bald eagle.
One of the most impressive sightings I ever had was one day a few years ago when James Ramsaur, director of Lincoln Parish Park, called me to bring my camera; he had something to show me. When I arrived at the park, I saw what looked like a feather pillow had exploded along the pond dam at the park. Sitting atop a tall tree nearby was a bald eagle. Ramsaur explained that an eagle had caught one of the white ducks making their home on the lake and enjoyed a meal on the pond dam.
More recently, I was driving home from town when I watched a bald eagle flying across a pasture toward a pond. The white head and tail feathers were dead giveaways.
While I have had the occasion to spot an eagle now and then, my wife has been denied that opportunity and I hoped she might be with me when I spotted one. Last week, I struck gold.
After a trip to town, I had noticed that the owner of a hay field across the road from my home had mowed hay that morning. Casting a glance onto the field of freshly cut hay, something caught my eye. There sitting in the field 100 yards from me was a bald eagle apparently enjoying a meal from a rat; snake; rabbit or something the mower had run over.
Since it was a few hundred yards from home, I hurried in, told my wife to jump in the car and come with me to see if it was still there. It was. We sat for several minutes observing the eagle which was being harassed by several crows. The eagle eventually flew to a branch on a tall tree across the field and having brought binoculars along with us, we enjoyed the scene for several minutes before the big bird grew tired of being harassed by crows and flew along the field giving us another spectacular view of the white head and tail as it flew.
If you really love your wife and she has never seen an eagle, be on the lookout for one to show her. I have a sneaking feeling I’ll be getting a chocolate pie out of the deal.