I got out of bed early one morning last week after a particularly sleepless night at Shiloh. We had worked hard on our new home the day before, and I was aching in places I didn’t even know I had. So I poured a cup of coffee and slipped out to sit under the big Hickory just off the end of the old cabin.
On many mornings, in the quiet before the forest and hills come to life, I might spy a small group of deer in the hay field. Sometimes, the field is spotted with wild turkeys early in the morning. Still, I am always on the lookout for a different kind of bird.
Several years ago, back in the late 1970s I believe, folks were somewhat surprised to see Bald Eagles making a comeback across the North American continent. As populations grew across the country, many of these majestic creatures made their way south and settled along the Mississippi Flyway. As they came into the Ozarks from the plains, many found their way to Stone County and Cleburne County in Arkansas.
About four or five years ago, while watching the main hayfield for signs of deer during one of our fall hunting camps, I heard a crow screaming and saw him flapping his wings at something higher up in a tall tree along Tomahawk Creek. Following the direction his ire seemed to be targeting, I saw a large, picture-perfect specimen of a Bald Eagle, standing tall at the very top of the tree.
Since that morning, I have seen eagles around Shiloh every autumn and winter. I always see at least one pair, and have seen the pair flying around with a couple of young offspring a few times. I considered their presence, and annual returns, to be a good sign for the future.
On that morning a week or two ago, I was on “eagle watch” once more. I had seen the deer in the hayfield and heard the gobblers calling from up the hill, but was just about to give up on the eagles.
”Maybe it was still too early in the year,” I thought. “Or maybe they won’t be back this year, or ever for that matter.”
Just as the foggy morning began to give way to a sunny sky, I saw a lone figure soaring high above the mountain just to the northeast of the farm. Sometimes what might appear to be an eagle from a distance turns out to be a vulture or other bird-of-prey, so I didn’t get too excited. At least not yet.
As I continued to watch the bird float effortlessly on the thermals rising up the west slope of the hill, the sunlight bounced off a gleaming white head and tail. That’s when I realized the eagles were back.
Even after the year we’ve had, with all its delays and setbacks and waiting and changes, that’s a good sign!