Saturday, January 7, 2017

Aerial drama...

There has been a fascinating drama playing out in the clear, domed sky above my farmlette this week.I first noticed it on Monday.  While hauling a load of hay out to the stock, Bravo pup caught my eye. He was sitting stock still and alert, staring at the roof of the house.  A quick glance there showed me a gull perched on the shingles.  The ocean is less than 20 miles from here,  and seeing gulls around the place is unusual, but not rare.  Apparently Bravo was unfamiliar with them, and found it troublesome that one was on our roof.  He woofed and it departed.

Later that morning my peripheral vision caught movement of a large bird outside the window.  An adult bald eagle, flying low, swooped majestically past. Hot on its heels, and screaming boldly, the gull.  They pair made three passes around the house, but vanished before I got my camera to capture the scene.  

This morning dawned cold, with whirling frost so thick on the windows the early light struggled to seep in.  On the deck the thermometer hovered at 5 degrees. I gathered up sliced apples and carrots for the animals, donned lined overalls, an insulated jacket, warm knit cap and heavy boots.  Hand warmers tucked into my gloves were a treat, and Bravo and I braved the cold.  I hauled warm water to the ducks and chickens, scattered corn for them to hunt for and filled their food bowls to the brim.  A bale of hay for the goats, horse and donkey was dragged across the icy lawn and greeted happily. The animals pushed their faces into it, inhaling deeply through the ice left on their whiskers where warm breath met winter chill to inhale the sweet scent of summer. 

It was then I heard it, coming from the direction of the pond.  The gull's screaming call, echoing in the empty morning air.  Bravo heard it, too, and craned his neck upwards. The sound reached us before we ever saw the bird, louder and more piercing as it approached. The sun illuminated its white underbelly as it circled overhead, calling.  Then I heard another familiar cry. That of an eagle.  I searched skyward, then let my eyes scan the tree line near the pond.  I saw it there, dark body, white head, motionless at the top of an ancient pine.  It called again and again, sounding like a challenge.  The gull responded, and wheeled around, headed for the pine.  The eagle chortled and lifted off, heading north.  The gull dove in to chase, and they were away.  

Curiosity led me to my keyboard.  A quick search informed me that gulls, crows, and other bold birds will often "mob" eagles.  In many cases several of the smaller birds will gang up on the eagle to attempt to drive it out of their territory. In this case it seems to be one angry gull with a harsh vendetta. I can't help but wonder why, or how the story will end.

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