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Somewhere in an Oregon valley

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I'M irrigating the ranch I take care of in the mountains of northeastern Oregon. This morning I cross the river and ride the motorcycle up the meadow close to the river, changing the flow of water in ditches to soak dry ground. Then I ride up onto higher ground, where the meadow gives way to timber. My dog is with me, and I keep an eye on him and insist that he stay close to me. Ducks, geese, herons, cranes, swans, hawks, eagles, owls, snipes, coyotes, deer, elk, and many other kinds of animals are at peace here. I don't want the dog to bother them, and I try not to disturb them as I go about my work.

I head for the ditch that comes out of the timber onto the lower meadow. From a spring near the end of that ditch, alarmed by my approach, two eagles take to wing. The first one is carrying a varying hare. The eagle can't gain altitude, and he drops the hare in the grass. I turn and head away from them and then stop and watch. The second eagle drops and tries to pick up the animal, without success. I'm far enough away now that the eagle stays with the hare, and the first eagle returns. My dog wants to go investigate, but I talk to him until he knows he won't.

The eagles are brown. They're probably golden eagles. They could be immature bald eagles. Bald eagles don't develop white heads and tails until they mature. That they can't carry the hare could mean they're immature, though varying hares can be quite heavy. That two of them hunt together probably means they are a mating pair and therefore mature and therefore golden eagles. If I could get closer, I could tell for sure what they are, but if I get closer, they will abandon their prey and flee. I'm thrilled enough that I've seen two eagles this closely. I don't need to know for sure what kind they are.


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