As I was walking from my Eastlake duplex down to a Lake Union beach for my dog Casbah’s semi-daily swim, I couldn’t help but notice a chorus of squawks coming from one of the condos blocking what would be an immaculate view of the lake. Either someone had reality TV cranked to eleven, or some birds were having a sh** fit…luckily it was the latter.
I got to the lake a couple minutes later and saw something I’d never seen before: a bald eagle perched on a telephone pole — probably 20-30 feet above my head. He (or she…I don’t know, it doesn’t really matter in this story) was getting harassed by a couple of crows and a few seagulls. I imagine the frantic birds were just a bunch of jealous males worried the stud eagle was going to snag their chick.
Though they were jealous of the baldy, it had nothing to do with his good looks (…okay, I am making the eagle a male at this point). The birds were all seeing the same thing the eagle was: a large dead fish floating in the swim area.
Two other people were with me at that particular beach, and both were also gazing up at the eagle along with me — carelessly tossing whatever water toy they had into the lake so their respective dog would leave them alone while they kept their eyes locked on the rare bird.
Just as I turned around to check on Caz’s progress of becoming the Michael Phelps of Cattle Dog-Pit Bull mixes, something got my attention out of the corner of my eye. Sir Eagle, who’d been nonchalantly ignoring the pesky crows and seagulls, was now diving down towards the water showing off his unbelievable wingspan. Before I could focus my eyes onto what promised to be a killer, once-in-a-lifetime scoop, I realized Caz’s little terrier body was about two feet from the prey. Immediately, my elation for nature was put on pause as I prayed — in a nanosecond — for my dog not to get scooped up by the giant bird beast.
The talons missed Caz and his toy — and also missed the fish. But before I could let out a sigh of relief, another — yes another — bald eagle came out of nowhere and attempted to snatch the fish. This bird’s trajectory was from a different angle, so Caz wasn’t in the line of fire this time around.
The woman with her black lab looked over to me and said, “Well, that’s about as epic as it gets.” Though I was still in a bit of daze, I couldn’t have agreed more.
Twenty seconds later Caz was back onshore shaking off Lake Union onto my pants. While he took a breather, we watched one of the eagles make a second round for the fish, and this time he was successful — flying northbound with a five-pound carcass clamped to his feet.
For those of who you’ve never seen one of these things up close (and I apologize if this is a regular Seattle thing that I am experiencing for the first time — I’m a damn California transplant), it was like a human being was parachuting down into a lake. The bird’s wingspan had to have been at least five feet. Imagine a middle school student dressed up in an eagle costume — that’s how big it seemed.
The other eagle eventually came back, making an appearance on top of the telephone pole again — strutting his stuff to all the single birdies.
Caz seemed pretty indifferent that he was bald eagle bait.
-Chris Coyle, KZOK