Bald Eagle, Decorah, Iowa

A nest is a ratty old thing from which the sounds of far-off highways can be heard, and where the husks of corn and grass long dead can be pulled a bit closer for warmth. It smells only of yourself, and perhaps a mate. An eagle’s nest contains little of the cozy human imagination. Large rough sticks and lice abound. It is open to the sky in the highest tree or telephone pole around. This one sits in the crotch of a tree between three limbs. In Iowa the trees have hardly begun to bud. The midwestern raptor sits alert on three eggs, head cocked, looking as if it can hear the mechanical sound of the camera zooming in and out but not being sure where to look it keeps all angles in its sights. No one watches an eagle unwatched, is what its topaz eyes tell me. I saw an eagle once devouring the carcass of a bloated harbor seal at low tide, ripping at the mottled flesh with its great horned bek and talons, ruler of decay, but this one looks soft, its brown and white feathers ruffled by periodic spring breezes. From a new angle, it’s clear how close to the road we are, 100 yards or less, a deep teal holding pond between next and highway, affording some protection maybe.