Tom Clyde: A five-eagle morning
This morning was a five-eagle morning. Between letting the dogs out, then in, then out to eat, then in again, there were two eagles in the dead cottonwood tree across the river from my house.
I’m pretty sure there were two different eagles. They don’t all look alike. There’s a younger one that has been hanging out here all winter. Its feathers are not fully black, but still have a kind of gray mottling to them. It’s head and tail are pure white. There have been some older, mature eagles that have the deep black feathers. With the sun in my eyes, it was hard to tell if I saw the younger one twice, or if it had company.
Then there was another one just down the canyon, and then two more in trees by the Francis Cemetery. There are particular trees they roost in. The dead trees do all look alike, so I’ve never understood why they roost in one tree over the one next to it. It’s very deliberate.
In the case of the eagle across from my house, it’s not only in the same tree, but the same branch. The dogs don’t like it at all and will bark at it. The eagle doesn’t care. I can sense its indifference from 50 yards away. That branch is apparently special to eagles because eagles have roosted there for years. The huge, mature eagle disappeared a couple of years ago. Now the immature one has taken over the spot. There must have been some issue settling the older eagle’s will, but the young one has firmly taken possession of exactly the same branch.
I’m not a big birder, but it’s hard to miss them when they are perched up in the bare tree, with their feathers fluffed up to the size of a fat Labrador retriever. Not a bad way to start the day, spotting bald eagles on your way to go skiing.
There has been a herd of wild turkeys in downtown Woodland all winter. The south-facing hillside has been mostly bare this year (not that global warming is real or anything) and the turkeys hang out on the shoulder of the highway and on the bare hillside. Sometimes they waddle across the road in a very leisurely and disorganized manner, stopping what little traffic there is. My neighbor was coming home from the grocery store and said that a turkey ran in front of his car, and wouldn’t get out of the line of travel. He finally slammed on the brake to avoid hitting it. And then mountain lion came around the side of the car in hot pursuit of the turkey. Both disappeared into the brush on the hillside. The turkey likely disappeared into the lion’s belly before it was all over. That was in the middle of the afternoon, with a row of houses along one side of the road.
I missed that action, but have seen lion tracks in the snow around the barns this winter. So they are around. People over in the Samak area have spotted them even more often. It would be a good growth management tool if realtors were required to hand buyers a disclosure that said there was a significant threat of being attacked by the lion that is squatting under the deck. And lurking around the school bus stop in the morning.
There’s another bird that I watch for. About this point in the winter, when I’m still having fun skiing but the novelty of shoveling roofs and plowing snow has long worn off, there is no sound as pleasant as the redwing blackbirds. This is typically the week they show up and start trilling in the willows. It’s the official announcement that spring is on the way. There’s a lot more snow to come, but once the redwings are back, I know we’re on the downhill side of winter.
Once the thought of spring gets in my head, there’s no getting over it. Despite having to post-hole through waist deep snow, I trudged out to the barn to visit the tractors. I keep some of them here at my house, and had managed to get all of them started for a while in January. There was too much snow to dig them out, but I like to push a little oil around the engines. I was less successful out in the barn. The two oldest fired right up. One starts by hand turning the flywheel, the other with a crank. They are 80 years old. I hope I am still firing up at that age. But I struck out with a couple of them. Too much choke; not enough 6v battery. I’ll have to wait for a warmer day for that.
But if the blackbirds are back, warmer days are coming.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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Columnist Tom Clyde’s family lights a hat on fire each Labor Day to mark the end of another summer on the ranch. It was only recently that he realized not all families partake in that tradition.