Birds abound here on the Yellowstone. Most are in pairs at this time of year, setting up their nesting sites, sitting on eggs, or already leading a clutch of chicks. Mergansers, mallards, cinnamon teals, red-tailed hawks, Canada geese, whistling swans, and great blue herons are daily companions.
“What is that?” I blurt as I maneuver the boat through a rapid around one of the countless bends in the river. Something splashing around in the water catches my eye as we zoom by.
“Whoa, I think it’s a bald eagle,” Tom sees it too.
“Is it snagging a fish?” I ask as I give the bird a wide berth. I turn into an eddy and slide MW up onto a gravel bar. By this time, the eagle is also standing on the gravel bar, glaring at us. I have never been so close to an eagle before. It’s magnificent. Its right wing is drooping down at an awkward angle, and it just hops away from us without trying to fly.
“Looks like it’s injured. We should get this to a game warden,” Tom suggests.
“Yea, or wildlife rehabber,” I add. Thoughts of capturing this bird are quickly dismissed as soon as we voice them. Although seemingly injured, this bird is by no means inept. First of all, she is huge. I’m guessing she’s a she because female bald eagles are about a third larger than males. Her head would probably come up to my hip were we to stand together. Her talons are like needle-tipped scythes and her fierce golden eyes are as intimidating as a junkyard dog snarling and straining on a chain. She isn’t letting us get anywhere close. This is out of our league.
“We should just report it,” I say. Tom agrees. He makes note of our location as best he can. To me, this is just one of the hundreds of unnamed twists and turns on the Yellowstone River.
In about two miles, we land in Springdale, where we zero in on the postmaster’s house. After hearing our story, she helps us ring up the Big Timber game warden. Ron said he would see what he could do this afternoon.