This eagle was once a regular sight on my work commute.
His perch of choice was a very large, very dead pine tree across from a pretty ranch.
The ranch, with its mix of dry pasture and freshwater wetlands was popular with both the eagle and a host of other wildlife ... including me.
You can always count on seeing something interesting at the ranch from beautiful horses, cows, the famous "cowdeer" who thought he was a cow and hung with the other bovines, sandhill cranes, anhingas, egrets, ibis, hawks, owls, ... you name it and it probably visited that ranch.
One dark morning almost 2 years ago, as I drove to work, I noticed something large on the road.
I swerved to avoid it and immediately thought ... "Oh no, was that white feathers in the headlights? Please don't let that be the eagle."
My principal at the time, Darby, loved the ranch views too and we often shared our sightings from the ranch.
On that day, she arrived to work after me, after sun up.
As we passed in the front office, her voice trembled a little as she said, "I think our eagle got hit by a car. Did you see it this morning?"
No more self-denial, no more telling myself, "Maybe it was an ibis", (Sorry Ibis, I think you're awesome too).
You might think, how could anyone not see an eagle and avoid it, but I know just how it probably happened.
I know, because I almost killed this eagle the week before.
Eagles don't always work for their food, it's way easier to scavenge. Around here, they are the lead carrion picker on fresh carcasses.
And where do you find fresh carcasses?
Right next to the road.
One week earlier, as the JEEP and I cruised home, this same Eagle had leapt up from high roadside grass, where it was (unseen by me) feeding on something dead.
It did this just as I was passing by.
I hit the brakes and the eagle skimmed past the JEEP's bumper as it worked to get airborne.
So I know how this eagle died.
I don't fault the driver, but I'm damn glad it wasn't me.
I missed the eagle, in more ways than one, but life goes on.
The ranch with all of its other wildlife, seemed a little duller without that bird...
... and then, just to rub salt in the wound, Hurricane Hermine knocked down the old pine snag.
Well, great ... just great.
Then one day ...
... as I was heading home from Cedar Key, I saw this small dead feral hog alongside the road with a vulture ... no wait, ... A JUVENILE BALD EAGLE feeding on it.
A replacement eagle !!!
As I slowed to a stop for photos, the young eagle swooped LOW ACROSS THE ROAD to a nearby pine tree.
Oh hell no.
Under the watchful eye of Junior, I got out of the JEEP and walked over to the dead pig.
Grabbing him by a hoof, I dragged him down the road shoulder, away from the road, and plopped him at the edge of the woods.
The eagle watched me intently, probably thinking, "Damn, a fresh pig, and this big creature is going to steal my dinner."
Of course, I didn't.
I just moved it away from the road so that this teenager could get some altitude before he crossed it with a belly full of pork.
I can't move mountains, but I can move a dead pig.