A few weeks ago, while visiting friends at their lake house in Kingsland, I finally went to see the American bald eagle nest off Texas 29, between Burnet and Llano, that has been in the news in recent years. (My friend Alice Liles supplied the photo, which she took of the nest last year.)
There were already a few cars parked beside the road when we arrived at the site. One of them belonged to an accountant from Brenham, who had set up two tripods, one with a camera and the other with a spotting scope. Wearing a heavy coat and wool cap to ward off the cold wind, he had obviously been there a while. He invited us to take a look through the scope, and filled us in on the latest activity in the nest. He said at present the two eaglets were visible in the nest.
I looked through the scope, and sure enough, I could see the backs of two little heads peeking up above the nest. Not much to see at that point, but still, two mounds of fluff in a nest of twigs and branches. A squirrel running around the edge of the nest and under it made it easy to tell that this was one huge treetop construction. Several of the spectators made jokes about the squirrel not being very smart, considering the parents could come back at any time and make a meal of him. But maybe he was smarter than we thought, and eagles intent on feeding their young aren't looking for squirrels.
Alice and I took turns looking through the scope with the other spectators and a few new arrivals. The accountant welcomed one and all and proved quite knowledgeable about birds and the history of the nest. He said he'd spent a lot of time watching the eagles over the years; he had a notebook full of photographs that he'd taken to prove it. I figured he was setting us up to buy some of his photos, which were quite good, but no, they weren't for sale. He took them just for his own and others' enjoyment.
Later, as I was looking through the scope, I saw one of the parents swoop in and land on the side of the nest. What a dramatic arrival! It caused a mild commotion among the group, all of whom wanted a glimpse of the majestic creature. Thanks to the spotting scope, everyone had a chance to see him. (And yes, the accountant thought he was a male.)
As we huddled around the scope, waiting for our next turn, we visited with our companions. It turned out that there were several schoolteachers in the bunch, and a couple of people figured out that they had gone to Stephen F. Austin State University together a few decades ago. I couldn't help but think about the unusual nature of this gathering, total strangers connecting on the side of a road as they enjoyed watching a family of birds.
By the way, the accountant/roadside birder told us that the eagles would probably stay around until at least April or May. If you haven't made it to the viewing yet, it's worth a trip.