Fly Like an...

I used to live nine blocks from the Mississippi. It was easy, in La Crosse, to gauge your distance from the river; just look at the street numbers: Front ran along the river bank, then Second, Third... you get the picture. I lived on Ninth and Cass, an easy walk from the riverfront. It was one of my favorite things to do on mild summer nights, get out of my (un-air-conditioned) apartment and go down to watch the lights on the river.

The first time I saw a Bald Eagle, it was a big deal. I was actually on the other side of the Mississippi, just north of La Crescent, MN, when it swooped across the highway. I nearly ditched the car, I was so excited.

After a while, though, you get used to them. Eagles on Pettibone Island--oh, that's cool. Eagle in the trees at Riverside Park? Well, that's different, but not that unusual. Watching eagles over the river from the patio of that BBQ restaurant on Front Street? Ho-hum.

Now that I'm in Oregon, they're less common. I'm more likely to see ospreys as I bike along the Willamette; there's usually a pair on the platform they built to discourage them from nesting on the freeway lights. and I've sometimes seen two or three fishing over the bike bridge.

Last summer, though, a young bald eagle took up residence right on one of the Delta ponds, along the bike path and a stone's throw from Valley River Center. I saw him perched there, or flying in and out, several days running. Also perched there were birdwatchers with binoculars, spotting scopes and enormous telephoto lenses.

So I've started painting eagles, on bakers, pie plates, dessert plates. They're not that common in my booth, but you don't need an eagle eye to spot them.