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  • Even though we now see about as many bald eagles as hawks in this part of Minnesota, it is still a thrill every time I spot one. It is in part because they are such large, striking birds, but also because for so much of my life I never saw a single one except on patriotic images.

    When I was growing up, we had a gold-tone mirror in the living room with an eagle on top of it. The mirror was convex and distorted the reflection. At some point my father painted an eagle plaque and put it up above the curtains over our living room picture window. Later, when my mother was doing the downstairs bathroom in red-white-and-blue striped wallpaper (I think it was for the bicentennial in 1976), my father made an eagle-shaped doorstop out of wood.

    Still, like whales, I had never seen one. The first time I saw one was in my 20s, driving across country, and we saw one in the distance in Wyoming.

    Now they are back, abundant even. My parents go to watch large groups of them feeding in and open stretch of the Mississippi River during the winter months. Once on my way to work one flew right along beside my car for nearly a mile. It was breathtaking.

    This morning I was surprised to find this one in the newly tilled field beside our house. We rent it to a farmer who grows hay for his cows. The eagle and two crows were picking it over, looking, I suppose, for unearthed creatures to eat.

    The crows flew right off, but the eagle stood, just like in the pictures of my youth, and let me capture him with my lens.
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