Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

The randomness of nature is wondrous.

My wife and I spent a lazy New Year’s Day, punctuating time on the couch with a drive to Glen O. Jones Lake near Equality.

There was an ulterior motive for the drive — populating my fledgling 2018 bird list — but, it genuinely felt good to get out of the house.

When we reached the lake, my wife suggested making a phone call to nail down evening dinner plans. Alas, there was no service at the lake.

On the way home, I stopped in Equality to make the phone call. As the phone was ringing, my wife spotted a bald eagle circling overhead. By overhead, I don’t mean at tree top level, I mean 15 feet above the car.

We sat their transfixed as the eagle circled, seven, eight, 10 times. It was obviously on the hunt, and the quarry was obviously near. Finally, the eagle dropped its flaps and landed on a limb of a nearby tree.

From that perch, the eagle stared intently in our direction. I winced when a small kitten crossed the street in front of us. Watching a kitten get snatched by an eagle … that’s not exactly my idea of a pleasant scene.

Thankfully, for my psyche and the sake of the kitten, the cat scurried off to safety.

In the meantime, the eagle changed positions on the limb a couple times, apparently restless to make a move on his quarry.

Suddenly, the eagle spread its wings and dove off the branch. My eyes widened and I inhaled deeply at the sight of the eagle swooping down just a few yards in front of my car. The speed, power, grandeur and beauty of the eagle were all on display.

As the eagle neared the asphalt, it banked slightly to the left, lowered its landing gear and snatched a small roadkill animal from the street’s surface. We sat there in silence — there was nothing our words could add to the moment — as the eagle flew off with New Year’s dinner.

It was a captivating moment. 

We were still sitting there, staring out the windshield, when a second eagle came into view. It seemed to be following the first bird, we’re guessing his or her dinner companion.

It was only then I noticed another car coming down the street toward us.

One can only imagine the view the person in the other vehicle had had.

First, they would have had no way of knowing an eagle was perched in a nearby tree. Then, to be driving down the street and suddenly having an eagle soar straight at you, pick something off the street and fly directly across your windshield …

2018 will have to be a pretty special year to top that sight!

LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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