We were lazily floating down the Gasconade River, minding our own business, when she appeared; flying close to the water and then swooping up to perch momentarily on a branch above the current before spreading her long but graceful wings and flying southward over an adjacent hay field. The sun glinted off her white head and lower legs as she flew. I reasoned she had been looking for a meal in the fish filled waters, but I hoped she had just dropped in to say "Hi."
A few days later, as we floated the river once again, we heard the screams from far above us on the rim of the bluff. Looking up toward the sun, we saw a pair of fledgling bald eagles flying out over the edge and then back out of sight. Time and again they flew the gradually increasing circle out over the river and then back into the safety of top of the bluff. Then they were gone.
A little further down river we heard the screeching again -- this time in a more mature sounding tone -- with answers coming echo-like from the young ones as they flew up river behind four adult bald eagles.
There are those who would probably not find pleasure in such sights and sounds. But our family enjoys seeing and hearing such things. We love going to sleep to the sounds of crickets and tree frogs and bull frogs and owls filling the night with the sounds of nature. We enjoy being awakened by the sounds of birds waking up and calling to one another, or the sound of a great blue heron calling to some unseen and unheard partner somewhere upriver. We even enjoy laying there in the early morning hours listening to the raindrops fall upon the roof of the camper or the fabric of a tent.
Camping for a week with good friends alongside a free flowing river is always relaxing. Floating and fishing with family and friends adds a great deal of fun to the ordeal. This year, the experience of seeing and hearing the eagles was an unexpected bonus.
Bald eagles often vocalize to communicate, especially with other eagles. The eagles we encountered were vocalizing loud and strong. They were apparently talking to the young ones about following, being careful, and how to survive in the world outside the protection of their nest high on the bluff.
As I write this, I wonder whether or not the eagles were some sort of sign. Probably not. They were probably just having family time, teaching the youngsters the best way they knew how -- by example.
Hopefully, we can do the same.