Encountering an Esplanade Eagle

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

While biking to a platelet donation this morning, I spotted a large mass in a tree.


Right near the Harvard Bridge a.k.a. the MIT Bridge a.k.a. the Mass Ave Bridge a.k.a. the Smoot bridge, on Boston’s Charles River Esplanade

As followers of my Instagram account know, I am an extremely amateur birdwatcher. Despite my fairly shallow knowledge, I had a suspicion I was seeing that symbol of America, the bald eagle. I’ve previously spotted bald eagles soaring high above New England while visiting Maine and northern Vermont. However, I’ve never chanced upon one in Massachusetts, let alone within Boston city limits. And yet, there it was.


Taken from just outside the “drop zone” directly under the bird.

If the white head and piercing eyes weren’t enough of a tip-off, the hooked yellow beak and feet really sealed it. The quality of the picture above probably tells you that I was armed only with an iPhone. While I would have loved to have a zoom lens or some binoculars with me, the sighting itself was a true treat. At only 8:15 AM, my morning was already made.

I paused to snap some more pictures and another cyclist noticed me looking up. He stopped as well, and pretty soon, there was a small crowd of impromptu birders. Rewarding us for the attention, the eagle took flight and swooped briefly over the river. It alit upon a lower branch a few trees down, allowing for slightly better photographs.

After a few more shots, I used the tremendous Audubon bird guide app to play some eagle calls. The bird seemed to notice, cocking its head and looking about, but it didn’t react beyond that. That’s probably for the best, as there’s a limit to how close one really wants to get to a wild bird of prey.

I needed to get to my appointment, but in the hope that other locals might have a chance to enjoy the rare sight, I quickly posted a picture to Instagram.

I think it’s a solid shot, and the subject matter certainly elevates things. Still, there’s noise caused by digitally zooming in, and the overcast day didn’t do me any favors. As such, I was surprised when I saw these requests pop up a bit later:

Requests from Boston-area news sites to use the photo.

I have long had a rule that you want to be on national news or no news, but never local news. Local news stories are almost uniformly terrible, along the lines of “Neighbors squawk and squabble over noise from backyard chickens”. I was momentarily hesitant, but I eventually acquiesced. Ultimately, I think something like this doesn’t count as actually being on local news, though it’s a bit close for comfort.


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