Every once in a while, something happens and you wish you had a camera.
I guess it doesn’t happen to everyone today, since most people carry cell phones. But the other day, I missed out on a fantastic photo experience.
We’re waiting for a three-day window of sunshine and no rain for our backpacking trip in the Adirondack High Peaks over Mount Marcy, so I put on my backpack with 35 pounds inside and walk up and down the hill behind my house almost every day. After a 2-mile hike over the mountain and through the woods one day, I headed back home.
When I was getting near my pond, I noticed a bald eagle flying overhead. The big bird wasn’t very high up and circled back over the meadow on my side of the water.
Suddenly, the wide-winged, white-headed predator turned, tucked its wings and dove down towards the water. With a subtle splash, he hit the surface. His powerful wings pushed him back up into the air and his sharp talons tightly grasped a largemouth bass a little more than a foot in length. He flew over to the hedge row, landed on a branch and proceeded to eat the fish.
I have always known that bald eagles are fish-eaters. I have seen them along the sounds and rivers of Alaska and up and down the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers here at home. I watched one swoop down and try for a fish while I was trolling on Goodyear Lake for walleyes, but I never expected to see one grabbing a fish from my pond out here along Route 23. I thought the only birds eating my fish were those darn long-legged, spear-beaked, blue herons.
But you know what? I didn’t have a camera. I’m not sure I could have caught the action even if I had one hanging around my neck. It happened way too fast.
Later on, I got thinking of other experiences when memorable things happened while I’ve been out in the wilds without a camera. A Maine moose immediately came to mind.
My dad and I were deer hunting near Rumford, Maine, about 20 years ago when I wandered upon a young bull moose in the tall timber. I was still hunting on a small ridge above a thick swamp when we actually spotted each other. I stood perfectly still while we had our little staring match. That small-antlered bull had no idea what I was and slowly took a few curious steps in my direction.
He finally got a mid-sized maple tree between us that he thought was big enough to hide his dark body. But the only thing it blocked was part of his nose and face, including his eyes. It was so funny that he thought I couldn’t see him as we played a little game of peek-a-boo.
His antlers and ears – as well as most of his body – stuck out from behind the tree, but he was thoroughly convinced he was out of sight. With his eyes behind the tree, I slowly eased closer, stopping when he leaned out to look at me with just one dark-colored eye.
The wind was perfect and the game continued until I was less than 30 feet from him. He then took another peek and I said quietly: “I see-e-e you.”
Well that little guy nearly jumped out of his skin from the sound of my voice. He turned and ran down the hill as fast as those too-long legs could carry him. He never stopped or even looked back. I heard him crashing through the brush until he was deep in the thickest part of the swamp.
I laughed about that for several days and wished I had caught our little game on film.
But once again, I didn’t have my camera.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.