Yep. I finally saw her.
Experts, far more knowledgeable than I am about all things ‘bird’, suspect she is a ‘her’. I have been told that – though the males and females of this particular Eagle species share pretty much the same markings and coloring, the females are larger (and this is a very big bird).
‘Stella’, as she has become known locally, is a far-from-home (as in about 5000 miles far) Steller’s Sea Eagle. She is rare. She is huge. She is actually one of the largest raptors in the world, and weighs in at about twenty pounds.
Yeah. Birds weigh next to nothing (which I assume has to do with the whole flying thing). This bird weighs TWENTY POUNDS.
So here she is, flitting… okay she doesn’t really flit. She flys, if this is possible, in slow motion. Anyway, she has been hanging out, in and around (and above) Boothbay Harbor and Southport Maine, for more than a week now.
After her first couple of days here, I feared the worst.
Last weekend our very small – width and length – road, was host to a constant stream of cars driving down, turning around, stopping, scanning, and moving on. I couldn’t imagine, if the Eagle stated in the area, what the coming week would bring, as more and more people became aware she was (is) here. This is a really small, seasonal community. Small town, small roads, few people. Hotels are mostly closed… heck, restaurants and stores are mostly closed.
Well, here’s what I got to see happen…
I watched one young man – John, manbythesea on Instagram – embark on a pretty special journey. A wildlife photographer, he decided to stream his search for the Eagle, and – in the woods, in the middle of a snowstorm – actually came upon it. Live on instagram, we got to see what he saw, and listen to him as he caught his breath and stuttered, “Oh my Gawd!” and “It’s right there!” and “I don’t know what to do!”.
What he did, was carefully and respectfully capture some great images, while sharing his amazing experience with the world.
He continued to do it each day!
Thousands of people began to follow manbythesea, as he set out in the mornings and/or afternoons to locate the Eagle. Teachers wrote that they were playing the live streams in their classrooms. Birders followed for updates. Folks even check in from as far away as Finland! And, all the while, John/manbythesea encouraged everyone, who was also hoping to see the bird, to keep their distance, not to trespass on private property, and – I love this – to patronize the local businesses. When he was driving through town (we all got to drive with him, as he live streamed), he would point out different galleries and restaurants and shops, describing their offerings and encouraging people to visit each.
Our local bed and breakfast establishments are full, our restaurants are being frequented, and our shops visited by serious birders, wildlife photographers, and the generally curious (many of whom have travelled great distances to be here). Good stuff for our seasonal region, and businesses that have had to work so hard to stay open these past couple of years.
The folks who are here, hoping to see Stella, are also encouraging each other toward respectful behavior (relative to the Eagle, as well as people and property).
I have personally showed up now to… 1, 2, 3, 5, 7… a bunch of groups who are either observing, or anticipating an observational… thingie. Every single time, folks are offering to let others look through their high-powered scopes, and/or taking the time to point out the Eagle (in which tree, above which landmark), and/or excitedly sharing where they were from, how much they love the area, and/or how excited they were to have a chance to see the bird. Now, many of these sightings – most in fact – are really far from the bird. In one case, I looked through a scope and the birder (who, apparently, birded a lot) said he estimated the Eagle was almost a mile away. But people are still just so happy to be creating the memories of ‘chasing’ it (I have learned that ‘chasing’ is an acceptable term in birding, and that it does not imply anything scary or predatory, which is probably why they don’t regularly use, ‘pursuit’ or ‘running down’).
As I was writing this, I saw an instagram post from a local restaurant, welcoming ‘birders’ and letting them know that, if they showed the post to the restaurant’s bartender in the coming days, they would get a discount on their drink.
That’s… small town cool.
So, here I am, having thought the lesson of the Steller’s Sea Eagle’s visit might end up being that people are irrational and crazy, but we have to love them anyway (or something similarly cliche’d make-lemonade-out-of-lemons by standing on my head and looking through a rose-colored juice glass).
This Eagle has inspired a wide-spread sense of community – as well as a close-in sense of community – by visiting here. And how incredibly wonderful is that? But its legacy may be far more meaningful.
After far too many days and weeks and years of doing a lot of keeping to ourselves…
Of averting our eyes, casting them up or sideways or down as we skitter by each other…
Keeping our circles from expanding any more than they absolutely need to…
After all of this.
A bird from very far away, by just doing what comes naturally to this particular bird – perching in high trees, soaring in our skies above – has reminded us that it’s still okay… more than okay…
To come out of our homes, and shells.
To reacquaint ourselves with each other.
To meet new people.
To step out of our comfort zone, experience new things.
And, most importantly,
To look up.
Thanks for readin’
*If you head over to John’s (manbythesea) instagram page (that link will bring you to it), you can see the video where he first encounters Stella. It’s so freaking authentic. I can’t not smile when I watch it. Of course, you can see some of his incredible photos as well.
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