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Birds On The Brain

Birds On The Brain

A barrage from above
By Katharine Sandiford
Apr 22
2009
From the April/May 2009 Issue

A bald eagle tried to scalp me on Sunday.

I was walking Wilbur on the lake, carefully following the hardpack of an old snowmobile track lest a wayward step plunge me hip-deep into rotten snow. It’s sunny; neighbours are swallowing beer on their decks, hosing down their cars, moving heavy boots to their sheds.

Five houses down the shore from my cabin lives the chicken lady and she’s let her feathered friends loose – they’re out in her unfenced yard pecking gravel, spring larvae, dead grass. Wilbur hears them screech and cluck. His ears perk up. I must prevent an incident. I call him to me, lure him with a breadcrumb trail of salmon jerky treats. He gobbles a few and leaves the rest; he’s got bird on the brain; he’s already bounding through the sea of slush that separates me from the shore. I would drown in there if I pursued.

In a desperate attempt to reel him back to me, I dump the contents of the treat sack in a heap on the trail and holler his name. And that’s when I hear it, the primordial swoosh of predatory wings diving in for a kill. Then I see it, the shadow first, then the beast. A huge bald eagle is bearing down, aiming for my head. I duck. It misses me by a foot, swoops and circles again. Wilbur sees it too, stops dead in his slushy tracks to watch his master’s eyes get plucked out of her skull. My amygdala tells me to run, and only a few paces down the trail I realize it’s not me the bird wants, it’s my salmon jerky, from it’s supernatural sense of smell, sight or intuition, it thinks it’s found an old thawing fish carcass. Next thing, Wilbur’s inner wolf drives him across the snow and back to the jerky pile, not to defend me, no, but to selfishly gobble down the stinky bait. I let him finish his meal, holding him by the collar as I watch the eagle soar up, away and around the bend, in pursuit of some other meaty substance released from the shoreline melt.