Leaning Back, Looking Up

Yesterday I realized that the pair of birds I thought were hawks were last year’s eaglets, much bigger now but still immature of plumage, as well as in behavior. They rollicked through the sky, screeching away and making quite a racket as they tried out several trees and a telephone pole for height, view, or whatever it is that eagles like best in a perch.

juvie eagle


They sure weren’t going to sneak up on any critters, but they seemed to be taking great joy in life. Was it joy, or was that me projecting my feelings about being able to fly like that, over pine trees, river, housetops, patchworks of roads, gardens, woods? Adult eagles don’t cavort; come to think of it, adult deer don’t cavort either, but fawns do. Cavorting is the province of the young. I resolve to cavort, as a protest against unfair ageism.

In the late afternoon they were joined in the sky by a number of vultures and a few crows. This was convenient for studying the differences between them; also, there were wonderful clouds. I leaned back and watched this busy sky, and thought about the names for groups of things. Vultures, for instance, are a kettle when they’re flying, a committee when they roost together in a tree, and a wake when they’re feeding. This is one of the best sets of group names: in flight, vultures swirl around as though being stirred in a great, invisible pot; bunched together in a tree they look exactly like a committee meeting you’d try hard to get out of; and of course when they’re feeding it’s a feast in honor of something that died. Makes a murder of crows seem lame. I had to look up the word for a group of eagles: convocation. I’ve personally never seen enough eagles together in one place to qualify. The pair I was watching were definitely a Joy of Eagles.

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