Troy's binoculars pressed tightly to his eye sockets. "MomDad," he whined. "Where are they?" The newspaper said up to 200 could be seen during this Eagle Watch weekend, at Sheffield Mills, Nova Scotia. And the tall tree that was supposed to be full of eagles looked bare as an icicle.
"Hi there," a man standing nearby said. "I couldn't help overhearing. Don't be discouraged."
"But we drove a long way from Truro to see them," Troy interrupted.
"There must have been fifteen eagles flying around here about half an hour ago. Six actually landed in that tree. It's kind of worn and chewed right now. But eagles call it home."
"Wow," Troy exhaled. 'Worn and chewed' made him think about his own munched up fingernails.
"They may come back, except the cold weather encourages them to move around," the stranger said. "They sure love to soar with the wind."
"My name is Joseph," Troy's Dad said. And this is my wife Ann and my other children, Susan and Scott. Our oldest son, Walter couldn't make it today. We just moved here from Sarnia, Ontario."
"Welcome to Nova Scotia! I'm from Yarmouth. Just call me, Chuck."
"Ok, Chuck. It sounds like you've been here before."
"Sure have, three times already. Usually there are more people for the annual tourist weekend. I'm glad to see your kids are dressed up for this weather."
"Well, as a matter of fact we like the outdoors, and our family does a lot of hiking and camping."
"You should take a walk around the corner in that direction," Chuck said pointing down the street. Several well-landscaped lawns fronted older shingled homes and a winding road led towards a rise of hills.
"Sounds okay with me. Kids. Honey, let's check it out. Are we allowed to leave the car here?"
"Sure can," Chuck answered. "Hope you see some."
"Mom," Susan said, "let's hurry." They spent the next hour looking up at the sky. Not far away, a recreation hall served pancakes and sausages.
"And displays you don't want to miss," several local people said. The family had a good breakfast before leaving Truro, and there was no need to spend money on full tummies.
"Smells good!" the children said, passing the lineup downstairs.
"Hint. Hint." Mom said, smiling as she followed her husband.
"Come on, kids." Dad challenged as he raced upstairs. A large room with a variety of tables had models and drawings of eagles for sale. Several tables displayed home baked cookies and of course Troy, the cookie monster checked this out.
Eight-year old Scott followed close behind. They were on the lookout for peanut butter ones, mom's favorite.
In a corner of the room, a video on eagles was being shown. Troy listened as the moderator said, "Eagles and ravens seem to get along well together."
Troy watched close-ups of eagles eating chickens, using sharp talons, and fearsome beaks. He learned farmers in this area set up food stations in the area twenty years ago. Since then the size of the eagle flocks grew much larger. These eagles came mostly from Cape Breton, an island connected by the Canso Strait Bridge, about 200 kilometers away.
"So much to see," Susan said, as the video finished. They were amazed how realistic taxidermists displayed eagles on perches. Their feet sizes and wingspans were "Awesome." It was a word used often by her brothers as their eyes feasted on everything.
Troy was like a sponge running around and absorbing every thought and feeling about his beloved eagles. Unfortunately the day was escaping rapidly. "MomDad? May I go around, one more time? Okay? Huh?" A quick smile from Mom and he was off making the rounds for another half hour.
Troy watched as a new colorful video showed a raven plucking at an eagle's tail feathers. It was trying to distract the larger bird while a second raven grabbed some food. Other tidbits of news from the video said eagles were symbols of power and courage. And reminded everyone the bald eagle was the national emblem of the United States.
Troy was amazed how swiftly, using their keen sense of vision eagles were able to use to get their prey. Fish, rodents, snakes and even rabbits helped form a tasty diet.
"Time to go," their parents said. And as the family stepped out into the sunlight a movement in the sky caught their attention.
"An eagle?" Susan asked.
"Yes," dad answered. But it was heading away. Then another large bird began to pursue it seeming to chase it back towards the watching group. It was being pursued by what looked like a raven. Now both flew up, down, and around like two children playing tag.
"The same as it showed in the video," Troy said. Now he knew for sure eagles and ravens were friends. The show in the sky lasted only a short while. Everyone needed to stop and use the washroom at the garage station. This was followed by a quick visit to the variety store for a treat.
"Something to munch on the way back," Dad said.
"It's still early," Troy said. "How come we're going home already?" Mom and Dad didn't seem to hear him. Or at least they pretended they didn't.
The trip home was not something Troy looked forward to. All this way and they hardly saw any eagles. You really couldn't count one as anything spectacular. He was so discouraged his sandwich seemed to clog up in his throat.
"Cheer up," Susan said, feeling sorry for his sadness. "We did see a bunch of seagulls, bro."
Troy, who was usually very observant, did not notice their return route was somewhat different. Neither did his sister or brother see sly smiles on the faces of their parents.
They drove through the tiny village of Cannington, then alongside another section of the Annapolis River. The children sat quietly in the back seat, absorbed in their thoughts. Several kilometers later they slowed at a sign. "KINGSPORT- by the Sea."
"Where are we going, Dad?" Troy asked suddenly.
"Oh by some dumb old river," his sister said with exasperation. "Mom? When are we going to finally get home?"
"Yah," Scott added, impatient to be riding his bicycle.
As the car slowed to a stop, each child looked around. "What now?" they asked.
Following the stares of their parents they glanced out the window towards the river. All Troy, Susan and Scott saw in the distance was a huge flock of what looked like. Well, it was really hard to make out what they were.
Troy wasn't interested. He had already seen enough sea gulls for one day. "Dad, why are we stopping? Mom?"
"Here Troy, take these," Dad said handing over the binoculars. "Go on sport, get out and take a closer look."
"It's freezing out," Troy moaned. But he had to humor Dad.
"You're right! Quick, close the door!" Susan shouted.
"Yah," Scott added.
Troy zipped his jacket tightly, all the way to his neck. His gloves were awkward as he raised his "glasses" towards the flock. "They'renotsea gulls," he said slowly. "Probably they're just crows or ravens, or whatever. Let's go," he said dejectedly.
"Check again. Just one more time," Dad encouraged.
At that precise moment Troy felt a presence overhead and he ducked automatically from a sudden movement. Something large had swooped closely over his head and headed towards the river. Troy barely caught a glimpse of the eagle as it gave a few shakes of its massive wingspan of eight feet and disappeared straight up into the sky.
"Dad! Mom! Susan! Scott! An eagle! A bald headed eagle flew right over my head. Look! Way up there!"
The family quickly rolled down windows and their gazes followed his excited pointing.
Seagulls and what looked like ravens were now flying around in all directions. It was as if various flocks had gathered for combat and were preparing to launch an assault on a school of fish hiding in the river below.
Troy swung his binoculars back and forth across the horizon. Now the cold wind was no more bothersome than a pesky mosquito.
"Here comes another flock of something," he said. "Hard to see, though. They're so many and flying close together. Probably more crows or ravens."
Susan was caught up in the excitement her brother was experiencing and joined the smiles of her parents. Everyone was keeping track of Troy's comments through their opened windows.
Dad whispered to his wife, as well as Susan and Scott. "I met an old friend, at the recreation hall we left a while back. He told me to come on down here"
Troy wasn't interested in paying attention to the conversation in the car. His eyes were busy growing large as saucers with every quickening beat of his heart. A realization penetrated his brain knowing for sure what was quickly flying straight towards him. Almost like a runaway train.
"Eagles!" he shouted. "Holy cow, an army of them! Look Susan, this is awesome. Scott, come look!"
"Wow" Susan said looking out her window.
"Awesome," said Scott.
The car was quickly vacated. By now the eagles were so close no one needed binoculars. Everyone gathered around Troy who was jumping up and down, twirling his arms. His excitement stirred them all.
A dozen eagles now soared overhead, then suddenly launched straight up. Like missiles, disappearing into the clouds. Then, just as quickly they descended as falling bungee jumpers towards the surface of the river. A shuffle of wings and they were off again sweeping away in several directions, as if part of an acrobatic high-flying exhibition.
The eagles flew singly and in pairs trying to out-perform each other. They danced and floated across the sky with a brief stretching of their wings. And rode the thermals as autumn maple leaves drifting from branch to branch.
They sensed their audience was thrilled from head to toe with their antics.
Adults and children pointed, laughed and slapped each other on the back. This was certainly a special show. Troy finally got to see his eagles. But, he wrestled with a new feeling, something quite different. He was so happy he felt like crying.
"This is really cool," he said over and over. "Oh man. OBOY. This is neat. Right Mom? Hey, Dad?"
"It sure is son," they answered together watching the glow on his face. Susan was also pleased for her brother. Scott too.
Troy watched as the eagle flock moved on. Except for one that seemed to turn and make a beeline for him. "Oh, please come back. Just one more time," Troy said silently to himself.
The eagle did come closer, allowing the young boy to memorize every exciting detail. Then a swift sweep of layered feathers caught a rising wind. This allowed the magnificent bald eagle to speed back to his very own family.
Troy knew he would never forget this day.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2008
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.