Friday, February 10, 2006

A Sound Like No Other

The sun pulled us to the shore. It doesn't take that long to walk from North Beach to the lighthouse. It's a beautiful walk from there up the mountain to the upper trail, and then across Fort Worden back to North Beach. A couple of miles of the most splendid quiet space this side of nowhere. I think we passed three other people on the whole journey, in a place as splendid as a mini Golden Gate Park. (Always click on a picture for a larger version.)
Lighthouse in the sunlight February 10th
North Beach was so cold. I thought the sun would have risen far enough on its northern arc to light and warm this beach, but I was wrong by probably a month. We walked in shaded, frigid temps for a mile or more. Our hands froze, but we saw some great shorebirds and a seagull and duck drama that was straight out of Wild Kingdom. (We photographed it for another post.) We walked fast to get to the sunlight we saw crowning the tip of Wilson Point and the lighthouse.
More madrones on the trail
Once we arrived at the lighthouse, we climbed the mountain to complete the loop in sunlight back to the car. We walked on a trail through fir and madrone forest. The sun filtered through the trees quite warmly down to us. Our hands stopped aching, when suddenly we heard the sound. Straight out of the quiet forest came several loud piercing cries. Both bird-like and mammalian. Sounding like a rabbit being killed by a coyote or hawk? It was sharp, high-pitched and frantic. There it was again. A cry as personal as death or sex. I was afraid to look. I didn't want to see a half-living creature struggling with its demise.
The trail the pirate took toward the sound
There was a smaller trail extending north from where we stood. The pirate said he was going to walk toward the water to see what was going on. I was still too worried about the intimacy of that sound to want to venture any further. He walked about thirty feet and motioned to me to follow. So I did. Quietly. I know we had both expected to see a hawk eating some forlorn lifeless mammal in a tree. When I got up next to him and looked at where he was pointing, I saw two amorous eagles in a tree about 100 feet from us. They were spectacular, and from the sound of it, they had just thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. They did not even budge the entire time we were there.

The pirate's story:
it seemed to me that the sound came from well above ground level. my fleeting thought was of a hawk and prey. we both turned and stared intently in the direction of the terrible noise, and i had not seen anything move, so i kept my eyes and attention in that direction and moved slowly off the main trail sideways. if i expected anything, it would be a glimpse of a bird of prey with a large kill. the sound had stopped so suddenly that i didn't consider a wounded animal. scanning the area where i sensed the sound had come from, and looking a bit above my estimated location of source, i saw a pair of bald eagles in the top of a tree. maybe less than a hundred feet away and sixty feet up. they are big! and they project attitude that puts a cat to shame.
We stood for a long time and watched them. They watched everything else. It was very quiet.

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